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The Abinger Edition 
of E. M. Forster 

Edited by 

OLIVER STALLYBRASS 


Volume II 



E. M. Forster dedicated 
“Two Cheers For Democracy” 

To 

Jack Sprott 
of The University 
of Nottingham, England 
and 

Bill Roehrich 
of Lost Farm, 

Tyringham, Massachusetts 



Two Cheers 
for Democracy 


E. M. Forster 



Edward Arnold 



© *95i> ^972 The Trustees of the Late E. M. Forster 
Introduction and other editorial matter copyright © 1972 
Oliver Stallybrass 

First published 1951 

First published in the Abinger Edition 1972 by 
Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd 
25 Hill Street, London WiX 8LL 

ISBN o 7131 5658 9 


All rights reserved. No part of this publication 
may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or 
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, 
mechanical, photo-copying, recording or otheryvisc, 
without the prior permission of 
Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd. 


Printed in Great Britain by 
Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd 
Bungay, Suffolk 



Contents 


Editor\s Introduction 
Prefatory Note 


Part I The Second Darkness 

The Last Parade 

The Menace to Freedom 

J ew-Consciousness 

Our Deputation 

Racial Exercise 

Post- Munich 

Gerald Heard 

They Hold Their Tongues 

Three Anti-Nazi Broadcasts : 

Wr" Culture and Freedom 

2 What Has Germany Done to the Germans ? 

3 What Would Germany Do to Us? 
Tolerance 

Ronald Kidd 

The Tercentenary of the Areopagitica 
^TTie Challenge of our Time 
George Orwell 


.A^hat I Believe 


Part 2 What I Believe 


Art in General 

Anonymity: An Enquiry 
.-Art for Art’s Sake 
The Duty of Society to the Artist 
^oes Culture Matter? 

-"The Raison d'Ptre of Criticism 
The C minor of that Life 
Not Listening to Music 
Not Looking at Pictures 


PAGE 

vii 

xiii 


3 

9 

12 

15 

17 

21 

25 

28 


31 

35 

3B 


43 

47 

50 

54 

59 


B5 


77 

87 

94 

99 

105 

1 19 

122 

126 


The Arts in Action 

John Skelton 
Julius Caesar 

The Stratford Jubilee of 1769 
Gibbon and his Autobiography 
Voltaire and Frederick the Great 


133 

150 

1^4 

157 

162 


V 



TWO CHEERS FOR DEMOCRACY 


George Crabbe and Peter Grimes 

PAGE 

166 

Bishop Jebb’s Book 

181 

Henry Thornton 

185 

William Arnold 

190 

“Snow” Wedgwood 

195 

William Barnes 

197 

Three Stories by Tolstoy 

201 

Edward Carpenter 

205 

Webb and Webb 

208 

A Book that Influenced Me 

212 

Our Second Greatest Novel ? 

216 

Gide and George 

220 

Gidc’s Death 

224 

Romain Rolland and the Hero 

226 

A Whiff of D’Annunzio 

230 

The Complete Poems of C. P. Cavafy 

233 

Virginia Woolf 

238 

Two Boolcs by T. S. Eliot 

253 

The Ascent of F 6 

257 

The Enchafed Flood 

260 

Forrest Reid 

263 

English Prose between 1918 and 1939 

266 

An Outsider on Poetry 

278 

Mohammed Iqbal 

282 

Syed Ross Masood 

285 

A Duke Remembers 

288 

Mrs Miniver 

291 

In My Library 

295 

The London Library 

299 

Places 

A Letter to Madan Blanchard 

305 

India Again 

315 

Luncheon at Pretoria 

324 

The United States 

327 

Mount Lebanon 

332 

Ferney 

335 

Clouds Hill 

339 

Cambridge 

343 

London Is a Muddle 

348 

The Last of Abinger 

353 

Source and Textual Notes 

359 

Index 

375 

Addendum 

409 


VI 



Editor’s Introduction 


Winding up his diary for 1950, E. M. Forster notes: “My book of 
articles now ready for casting. Not ill-content when thinking of 
it — pains will start with reading it for revision.” The book is Two 
Cheers for Democracy, and by “casting” Forster probably means 
“casting off” — publishers’ and printers’ jargon for the process of 
calculating how big a book a given typescript or equivalent will 
make. In the case of a miscellany submitted, of necessity, in a 
wide variety of printed and typescript formats, the process is a 
pernickety one requiring more patience and a higher degree of 
numeracy than many authors possess ; and the plan, no doubt, was 
for the British publisher, Edward Arnold, to make sure that the 
book was of suitable length before Forster began the detailed 
work of revision. For a miscellany, Two Cheers for Democracy is in 
fact, like its predecessor Abinger Harvest, a very substantial book. 
Yet we can safely assume that no omissions were requested of 
Forster for this (or any other) reason, since on the contrary he 
was able, over the next six months, to insert four additional items 
as they were written. 

Two Cheers for Democracy was published, by Edward Arnold 
in London and Harcourt, Brace in New York, on i November 
1951. Of the seventy or so essays, talks and reviews which it 
contains, three — “Anonymity” (1925), “A Letter to Madan 
Blanchard” (1931) and “The Stratford Jubilee of 1769” (1932) 
— are pieces which for some reason had been excluded from 
Abinger Harvest (1936). The remainder represent, in quantitative 
terms, rather more than half of Forster’s occasional writings 
between the autumn of 1935 and the summer of 1951. Details of 
their first publication are given in the notes at the end of this 
volume, and Forster himself, in his Acknowledgements, has men- 
tioned some of the periodicals involved; the others are the 
Atlantic Monthly, the Calendar of Modern Letters, Harper'' s Magazine, 
London Calling, the London Mercury, the Nation (New York), the 
New York Times Book Review and Tribune, 

Of the various publications to which Forster contributed in the 
1 930s and 1 940s two stand pre-eminent: the Listener, with thirty- 
one items reprinted in the present volume, and the New Statesman, 
with fourteen, all of them written between 1939 and 1944. The 
high figure for the Listener stems largely (twenty-one items) from 
Forster’s success as a broadcaster; but it is not surprising to find 

vii 



TWO CHEERS FOR DEMOCRACY 


that the literary editor of each of these journals during the years 
in question was a personal friend of Forster’s : Raymond Mortimer 
of the New Statesman and, more particularly, J. R. Ackerley of the 
Listener, 

In an interview recorded in 1965 and broadcast after Forster’s 
death in 1970,^ Joe Ackerley talked about his editorial relation- 
ship with Forster: 

Morgan Forster was the greatest journalist catch during my 
twenty-five years as literary editor of the Listener^ and became 
increasingly so during that period. If you could land him for 
an article, or a book review, you landed the whale and were the 
envy of every other literary editor in London. The Listener was 
fortunate. . . . Morgan did a lot for me during my literary- 
editorship. He always helped his friends. . . . He always did for 
the Listener whatever I asked him to do, if he was interested. 
“ Send the book along,” he’d say, “ and I’ll see if I like it.” Even 
when he could have got better paid elsewhere. 

And even though, until 1958, reviews in the Book Chronicle 
section were unsigned. On this Ackerley — who in that year 
helped me to identify Forster’s anonymous contributions — 
comments : 

Now, that was something ! Our greatest living English novelist 
doing unsigned reviews. Moreover, he disapproved of anony- 
mity. ... I believe I am right in saying that he thought 
anonymous reviewing “sheer funk”. 

One is reminded of Forster’s approving reference (page 214) to 
the high Ydgrunites’ view of ideals: “they were always willing 
to drop a couple to oblige a friend.” 

Apart from the broadcast talks, at least seven of the longer 
pieces — on anonymity, art for art’s sake, criticism, Skelton, 
Crabbe, Virginia Woolf and English prose between the wars — 
originated as lectures. Of Forster’s craftsmanship in the medium 
of the spoken word, and more particularly the broadcast talk, 
John Arlott, who for several years produced his monthly book- 
talks to India, has written perceptively and with authority.^ 
Forster’s sensitiveness to his audience emerges also — as, pace his 
own modest Prefatory Note, do his skill and judgement in revising 
for publication — from the comparison of surviving scripts with 
the versions published in the Listener (or London Calling) and in 
Two Cheers for Democracy. Rough edges left by the revision process 

^ The transcript has been made available to me by the kindness of Mr Neville 
Braybrooke, and is here quoted, with permission, from an appendix to his 
edition of The Letters ofj, R, Ackerley (London, Duckworth, 1973). 

^ In Aspects of E, M. Forster ^ edited by Oliver Stally brass (London, Arnold, 
and New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1969), pp. 87-92. 

viii 



INTRODUCTION 


are rare indeed much more typical are such tiny felicities as that 
represented by the word “cloister” at the end of the fourth 
paragraph of “Gide and George” (page 221), where Forster first 
wrote “the study and the cloister”, then changed “cloister” to 
“platform” for his Indian audience, but reverted to “cloister” 
for successive published versions. 

This piece, indeed, illustrates well not only the changes specific 
to talks or lectures, but those that are just as likely to occur 
anywhere : the elimination of topicalities, the removal or insertion 
of a qualification, more rarely an apparent change of view — as 
when The Immoralist^ described in 1943 as Gide’s “best and most 
disquieting work”, becomes in 1951 merely his “most disquieting 
work”. Here, to illustrate the neat excision of ephemera, is the 
opening paragraph of “Gide and George”: 

Two modern writers of European reputation, the Frenchman 
Andre Gide and the German Stefan George, offer contrasted 
reactions to the present chaos. I will begin with Gide. 

This has been distilled from the following : 

I’his talk is about two modern writers of European reputation. 
They are not well known in England, nor I suppose in India, 
but they are great names on the Continent, the tormented 
Continent, and in different ways they illustrate its tragedy. 
One of them is Andre Gide, the French novelist and man of 
letters. The other is a fine German poet, Stefan George. You 
may jump to hear me referring politely to a German poet on 
the British radio, and you will jump still higher when I add 
that the Nazis approve of this particular poet and have con- 
stituted him their national bard. If Dr Goebbels happened to 
be listening now, he would certainly be surprised at my pr2using 
Stefan George, who is his own speciality, and he would wonder 
what I was up to. I am up to something. I won’t reveal what 
it is just yet. Let us leave Dr Goebbels in suspense for a little, 
and begin by discussing Andre Gide. 

Towards the end of the talk Forster — who, by the way, was on the 
Nazi black list — put Goebbels out of his suspense; and at the very 
end came “There is also a third reaction — the saint’s — about 
which you may know more than I do” — ^followed by a few 

^ In “Remain Rolland and the Hero” the third paragraph originally 
ended: “. . . was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1916. I must now 
repeat that date — 1916. Remain Rolland has entered the first world-war.” 
And the next paragraph opens : “ He was shattered by it to an extent which we 
can scarcely comprehend.” In revising, Forster has removed the sentence 
rej^ating “1916” and changed “has” to “had”, thereby producing a slightly 
pointless sentence whose one fact could have been neatly absorb^ into the 
opening of the next paragraph. See page 227. 


IX 



TWO CHEERS FOR DEMOCRACY 

references to translations of Gide and George, and to commen- 
taries on the latter. 

So much for the “pains” of revision. But the preparation of 
Two Cheers for Democracy inv9lved not only sensitive and judicious 
attention to each of its component parts, but, as with Abinger 
Harvest^^ much thought about its shaping into an artistic whole : 

A chronological arrangement would have been simplest. But 

I was anxious to produce a book rather than a time-string . . .^ 

As in Abinger Harvest^ too, Forster opens with what pretends to be 
a random set of notes, proceeds via political and social concerns 
to the arts, glances at the past, and invokes the sense of place: 
now a sub-continent, now a house, and finally a particularly 
well-loved corner of England. 

Long before 1951, Forster was widely regarded as, at the very 
least, one of the five major English novelists of the twentieth 
century. Now, with Two Cheers for Democracy to set beside and 
complement Abinger Harvest^ he was established also as an out- 
standing essayist, and as the spokesman par excellence for the liberal 
humane values represented, in Forster’s view, by such men as 
Erasmus, Montaigne, Voltaire and Andre Gide: tolerance, 
sensitiveness, the capacity both to enjoy and to endure, scepticism 
over panaceas, distrust of authority, love of truth, and an un- 
wavering belief in personal relationships, as well as in a personal 
culture that need involve neither aloofness nor mateyness. “The 
desire to know more, the desire to feel more, and, accompanying 
these but not strangling them, the desire to help others: here, 
briefly, is the human aim” (pp. 299-300) — and Two Cheers for 
Democracy y to adapt Forster’s conclusion, exists partly to further it. 

To emphasize this aspect of the collection seems natural: 
Forster himself offers “as a key to the book” the famous essay 
“What I Believe”, and there are some half-dozen other essays, all 
in the first 120 pages, which are central to an understanding of his 
ideas on society and art. Even in the book reviews and literary 
essays — one or two of which, like ^'Julius Caesar'\ arc on the slight 
or superficial side — he seems happiest when he is able to glance 
beyond the book to the ideas and values it stands for. Two Cheers 
for Democracy^ in short, is a more consistently serious book than 
Abinger Harvest, 

^ On this aspect of which sec David I. Joseph, The Art of Rearrangement: 
E. M. Forster's Abinger Harvest (New Haven and London, Yale University 
Press, 1964). 

* Forster’s firm rejection of chronology, here and in Abinger Harvest^ is one 
reason why, in an edition likely to include six volumes of essays and the like, 
it was decided not to merge collected and uncollected items into a single 
chronological sequence (as has been well done with Orwell). 


X 



INTRODUCTION 


It is also a tougher one, the toughness being all the more 
effective for the deceptively playful spirit in which, so often, battle 
is engaged. “Jew-Consciousness” provides a good example: after 
an extremely amusing account of two preparatory schools where 
it was a disgrace to have, respectively, a sister and a mother, 
Forster suddenly pounces: 

Those preparatory schools prepared me for life better than I 
realized, for having passed through two imbecile societies, a 
sister-conscious and a mother-conscious, I am now invited to 
enter a third. I am asked to consider whether the people I meet 
and talk about are or are not Jews, and to form no opinion on 
them until this fundamental point has been settled. What 
revolting tosh! Neither science nor religion nor common sense 
has one word to say in its favour. 

And there follows a devastating indictment of antisemitism. Or 
take “A Duke Remembers”, where, reviewing what is clearly an 
inane, complacent book, Forster contents himself with mild 
badinage (“a tremendously aristocratic shoot . . . great names 
hurtle through the air”) until the last paragraph. This concerns 
a veteran who, about to be decorated by Lord Roberts, “opened 
his coat, and out popped the head of a kitten”. Forster points the 
moral and adorns the tale : 

All must deplore the veteran’s conduct, yet the public is bound 
to pop out a kitten occasionally, or it would burst. It has, every 
now and then, to remind the governing classes that they must 
not take themselves arid their awards too seriously, and if it is 
ever afraid to do this England will cease to be England. 

Then, as a cunningly placed variation on the same theme, he 
turns his attention, in the next essay, to the egregious Mrs 
Miniver — ^whom, like antisemitism, he approaches obliquely: 

A working-class man I know — he grew up in a Gloucestershire 
village — has told me of the reactions of the villagers there to the 
parson thirty years back. The parson was not disliked, he was 
a kindly, friendly fellow, who had the right word for every 
occasion. But when the right word was spoken and he passed 
out of earshot, swinging his stick and looking right and left at 
the sky, the villagers came into their own for a moment, and 
used foul language about him. They had to, to clear their 
chests and to get rid of their feeling of incompetence. To preserve 
their manhood and their self-respect, they had to splutter a 
little smut. 

• 

A pleasant quotation, that, with which to conclude; not least 
because the psychological subtlety (“feeling of incompetence"") and 


XI 



TWO CHEERS FOR DEMOCRACY 


the eye for the telling detail (“swinging his stick and looking 
right and left at the sky”) are among the hallmarks of a novelist — 
one who for valid private reasons had stopped writing novels. 

In preparing this edition of Two Cheers for Democracy I have 
received generous and valuable help of one kind or another from 
the following individuals and organizations : Mr Stanley Adamson ; 
Mrs Sylvia Anthony; Mr Neville Braybrooke ; the British Museum 
(Department of Printed Books, especially Mr Ian Willison) ; Mr 
Benjamin Britten; Cambridge University Library; Mr John 
Davey (Edward Arnold Ltd); Mr Angus Davidson; Mr P. N. 
Furbank; Mrs Martha Hartley; Mr Colin Haycraft (Gerald 
Duckworth & Co. Ltd) ; Mr Peter Hoare ((brmerly Brynmor 
Jones Library, University of Hull; Miss Joan Houlgate (Reference 
Librarian, B.B.C.) ; the Humanities Research Center, University 
of Texas (Mr F. W. Roberts, Director, and Mrs June Moll, 
Librarian); Mr Christopher Isherwood; Miss Christine Jackson 
(National Council for Civil Liberties); Mr Bernard Jones; Miss 
B. J. Kirkpatrick; the London Library, especially Dr Martin 
Schor and Miss Barbara Tarrant; Mrs Sylvia McGeachie; Mr 
T. S. Matthews; Mr G. T. Mitchell (London School of Econom- 
ics) ; Miss Patricia Parkin ; Mr C. W. Roberts ; Professor Mark 
Roskill (University of Massachusetts) ; Professor C. R. Sanders 
(Duke University) ; Mrs Gunvor Stallybrass; Miss Rita Vaughan 
(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.) ; Mrs Valerie Weston (India 
Office Library and Records) ; and, at King’s College, Cambridge, 
Dr Donald Parry, Vice-Provost; Dr A. N. L. Munby, Librarian, 
Mr Donald Loukes, Assistant Librarian, and other members of 
the Library staff; Miss Elizabeth Ellem and Mrs Penelope 
Bulloch, successive custodians of the Forster archive; Mr Christo- 
pher Prendergast; Mr Philip Radcliffe; and Mr George Rylands. 
(See p. 409.) Certain outstanding and continuing debts have been 
more fully acknowledged elsewhere in this edition; on this occa- 
sion I hope that my thanks to all concerned will not seem the less 
warm for being so summarily expressed. 


Oliver Stallybrass 


Earlier British editions of Two Cheers for Democracy were dedicated 
“to Jack Sprott, of the University of Nottingham, England, and 
to Bill Roehrich, of Lost Farm, Tyringham, Massachusetts”. In 
American editions, Bill Roerick {sic) was named first. W. J. H. 
Sprott (1897-1971) was Professor of, successively, Philosophy and 
Psychology at Nottingham; William Roehrich or Roerick is an 
actor. 


xii 



Prefatory Note 


These essays, articles, broadcasts, etc., were nearly all of them 
composed after the publication of Abinger Harvest^ that is to say 
after 1936. A title for the collection has been difficult to find. 
One of my younger friends suggested Two Cheers for Democracy 
as a joke, and I have decided to adopt it seriously. 

Arrangement has been still more difficult. A chronological 
arrangement would have been simplest. But I was anxious to 
produce a book rather than a time-string, and to impose some sort 
of order upon the occupations and preoccupations, the appoint- 
ments and disappointments, of the past fifteen years. Division 
into two sections proved helpful. The opening section, “The 
Second Darkness”, concentrates on the war which began for 
Great Britain in 1939, though earlier elsewhere, and which is still 
going on. Subjects such as Antisemitism, the Nazis, Liberty, the 
Censorship are here discussed. The climate is political, and the 
conclusion suggested is that, though we cannot expect to love 
one another, we must learn to put up with one another. Otherwise 
we shall all of us perish. 

The second section, “What I Believe”, covers the same period 
as the first and sometimes the same subjects, but its climate is 
ethical and aesthetic. It opens with an essay which may be 
regarded as a key to the book. Then come the arts. I have found 
by experience that the arts act as an antidote against our present 
troubles and also as a support to our common humanity, and I am 
glad to emphasize this at a time when they are being belittled and 
starved. Theories of art are followed by the arts in action — 
literature particularly: Skelton and Shakespeare to Forrest Reid, 
Voltaire to Proust and Iqbal, together with items less easily 
accommodated, such as Mrs Miniver, the Duke of Portland, my 
own grandfather, and my own library. Then places : in them also 
I believe. Beginning with the Pelew Islands, which I have only 
visited vicariously, I flit via India and South Africa to the United 
States, to Europe, to England, and finally spiral down uppn 
Abinger, the village in Surrey which was for many years my 
home. 

xiii 



TWO CHEERS FOR DEMOCRACY 


That ends the miscellany. I hope it may reveal some unity 
of outlook, for it certainly lacks unity of atmosphere ; some of the 
items being expository in tone and others allusive. The broadcasts 
have been troublesome. There is something cajoling and in- 
gratiating about them which cannot be exorcised by editing, and 
they have been the devil to reproduce. I have not been consistent 
over broadcasts. In some cases I have taken the microphone by 
the horns and printed the script as it stood. Elsewhere I have 
attempted concealments which the reader will probably detect. 

Until livelier counsels prevailed “The Last of Abinger” was 
to have been the book’s general title. But I do not really want to 
record the last of anything and am glad to change. Human life is 
still active, still carrying about with it unexplored riches and 
unused methods of release. The darkness that troubles us and 
tries to degrade us may thin out. We may still contrive to raise 
three cheers for democracy, although at present she only deserves 
two. 

Cambridge y England, ig^i ' e.m.f. 


Acknowledgements 

My thanks for permission kindly given to reprint previously 
published material are due, in the first place, to the Syndics of the 
Cambridge University Press for Virginia Woolf; the University 
Board of the University of Glasgow for English Prose between igiS 
and iggg — and for the quotations within it from T. E. Lawrence’s 
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Jonathan Cape Ltd) and Lytton 
Strachey’s Queen Victoria (Chatto and Windus Ltd) to the respec- 
tive authors’ executors and publishers; the Harvard University 
Press for The Raison d^£tre of Criticism ; and the Hogarth Press for 
Anonymity and A Letter to Madan Blanchard, 

Also to the following : the Abinger Chronicle, the British Broad- 
casting Corporation (and more particularly the Listener), Horizon, 
Reynolds News, the New Statesman and Nation, New Writing, the 
Spectator, Time and Tide, and Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Urdu. 

The essays on Crabbe and on Skelton have not been published 
before; nor has the meditation with which the miscellany closes. 


E.M.F. 


xiv 



Part One 

The Second Darkness 




The Last Parade 


Paris Exhibition, 1937: Palace of Discovery, Astronomical 
Section; model of the Earth in space. Yes, here is a model of this 
intimate object. It is a tidy size — so large that Europe or even 
France should be visible on it — and it revolves at a suitable rate. 
It does not take twenty-four hours to go round as in fact, nor does 
it whizz as in poetry. It considers the convenience of the observer, 
as an exhibit should. Staged in a solemn alcove, against a back- 
ground of lamp-super-black, it preens its contours eternally, that 
is to say from opening to closing time, and allows us to see our 
home as others would see it, were there others who could see. Its 
colouring, its general appearance, accord with the latest deduc- 
tions. The result is surprising. For not France, not even Europe, 
is visible. There are great marks on the surface of the model, but 
they represent clouds and snows, not continents and seas. No 
doubt the skilled observer could detect some underlying fussi- 
ness, and infer our civilization, but the average voyager through 
space would only notice our clouds and our snows; they strike the 
eye best. Natural boundaries, guns in action, beautiful women, 
pipe-lines — at a little distance they all wear the same veil. Sir 
Malcolm Campbell beats his own records till he sees his own back, 
Mr Jack Hulbcrt cracks still cleaner jokes, forty thousand mon- 
keys are born in Brazil and fifty thousand Italians in Abyssinia, 
the Palace of the Soviets rises even higher than had been planned. 
Lord Baden-Powell holds a yet larger jamboree, but all these 
exercises and the areas where they occur remain hidden away 
under an external shimmer. The moon — she shows her face. 
Throned in an adjacent room, the moon exhibits her pockmarks 
nakedly. But the Earth, because she still has atmosphere and life, 
is a blur. 

Paris Exhibition: the Spanish Pavilion, the Italian Pavilion. 
The other pavilions. The Palaces of Glass and of Peace. The 
Eiffel Tower. The last-named occasionally sings. Moved by, an 
emission of Roman candles from its flanks, it will break of an 
evening into a dulcet and commanding melody. When this 


3 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


happens the pavilions fold their hands to listen, and are steeped 
for a little in shadow, so that the aniline fountains may play more 
brightly in the Seine. The melody swells, inciting the fireworks as 
they the melody, and both t>f them swell the crowd. O syn- 
chronization ! O splendour unequalled! Splendour ever to be 
surpassed? Probably never to be surpassed. The German and 
Russian Pavilions, the Chinese and Japanese Pavilions, the British 
and Italian Pavilions, any and all of the pavilions, will see to that. 
The Eiffel Tower sings louder, a scientific swan. Rosy chemicals 
stimulate her spine, she can scarcely bear the voltage, the joy, the 
pain. . . . The emotion goes to her tiny head, it turns crimson 
and vomits fiery serpents. All Paris sees them. They astonish the 
Pantheon and Montmartre. Even the Institut de France notices, 
heavy-browed, dreaming of cardinals, laurels, and reclame in the 
past. O inspired giraffe! Whatever will the old thing turn into 
next? Listen and see. The crisis is coming. The melody rises 
by slight and sure gradations, d, la G6sar Franck, spiralling easily 
upward upon the celestial roundabout. Bell pop popple crack, is 
the crisis, bell pop popple crack, the senses reel, music and light, 
lusic and might, the Eiffel Tower becomes a plesiosaurus, flings 
out her arms in flame, and brings them back smartly to her vibrat- 
ing sides, as one who should say “ Lk ! ” Bell pop crack pop popple 
bell. The carillon dies away, the rockets fall, the senses dis- 
entangle. There is silence, there are various types of silences, and 
during one of them the Angel of the Laboratory speaks. “Au 
revoir, mes enfants,” she says. “I hope you have enjoyed your- 
selves. We shall meet again shortly, and in different conditions.” 
The children applaud these well-chosen words. The German 
Pavilion, the Russian Pavilion, confront one another again, and a 
small star shines out on the top of the Column of Peace. 

Paris Exhibition; van Gogh. When the day breaks, van Gogh 
can be found if wanted. He is housed in the corner of another 
palace between maps of Paris and intellectual hopes for the future, 
and the space suffices him. Well content with his half-dozen 
rooms, he displays his oddness and his misery to tired feet. “ Sor- 
row is better than joy,” he writes up upon the white walls of his 
cell. Here are pictures of potatoes and of miners who have eaten 
potatoes until their faces are tuberous and dented and their skins 
grimed and unpecled. They are hopeless and humble, so he loves 
them. He has his little say, and he understands what he is saying, 
and he cuts off his own ear with a knife. The gaily painted boats 


4 



THE LAST PARADE 


of Saintes Maries sail away into the Mediterranean at last, and 
the Alpilles rise over St R6my for ever, but nevertheless “sorrow 
is better than joy”, for van Gogh. What would the Eiffel Tower 
make of such a conclusion ? Spinning in its alcove for millions of 
years, the Earth brings a great artist to this. Is he just dotty, or 
is he failing to put across what is in his mind ? Neither, if we may 
accept historical parallels. Every now and then people have pre- 
ferred sorrow to joy, and asserted that wisdom and creation can 
only result from suffering. Half a mile off, Picasso has done a 
terrifying fresco in the Spanish Pavilion, a huge black and white 
thing called Guernica, Bombs split bull’s skull, woman’s trunk, 
man’s shins. The fresco is indignant, and so it is less disquieting 
than the potato-feeders of van Gogh. Picasso is grotesquely angry, 
and those who are angry still hope. He is not yet wise, and per- 
haps he is not yet a creator. Nevertheless, he too succeeds in say- 
ing something about injustice and pain. Can one look through 
pain or get round it? And can anything be done against 
money? On the subject of money, van Gogh becomes compre- 
hensible and sound. He has got round money because he has 
sought suffering and renounced happiness. In the sizzle sur- 
rounding him, his voice stays uncommercial, unscientific, pure. 
He sees the colour “blue”, observes that the colour “yellow” 
always occurs in it, and writes this preposterous postulate up upon 
the white walls. He has a home beyond comfort and common 
sense with the saints, and perhaps he sees God. 

The Soviet Pavilion. This, bold and gleaming, hopes to solve 
such problems for the ordinary man. And for the ordinary 
woman too, who, of enormous size, leans forward on the roof 
beside her gigantic mate. Seen from the side, they and the build- 
ing upon which they stand describe a hyperbola. They shoot into 
space, following their hammer and sickle, and followed by the 
workers’ world state. The conception is satisfying, but a hyper- 
bola is a mathematical line, not necessarily an aesthetic one, and 
the solid and ardent pair do not group well when viewed from the 
banks of the bourgeois Seine. Challenging injustice, they ignore 
good taste, indeed they declare in their sterner moments that 
injustice and good taste are inseparable. Their aims are moral, 
their methods disciplinary. Passing beneath their sealed-up 
petticoats and trousers, we enter a realm which is earnest, cheer- 
ful, instructive, constructive and consistent, but which has had 
to blunt some of the vagrant sensibilities of mankind and is 


5 



THB SBQOND DARKNESS 

consequently not wholly alive. Statistics, maps and graphs preach 
a numerical triumph, but the art-stuff on the walls might just as 
well hang on the walls of the German Pavilion opposite: the 
incidents and the uniforms in the pictures are different but the 
mentality of the artists is the same, and is as tame. Only after a 
little thinking does one get over one’s disappointment and see the 
matter in perspective. For the Soviet Pavilion is a nudge to the 
blind. It is trying, like van Gogh, to dodge money and to wipe 
away the film of coins and notes which keeps forming on the 
human retina. One of the evils of money is that it tempts us to 
look at it rather than at the things that it buys. They are dimmed 
because of the metal and the paper through which we receive 
them. That is the fundamental deceitfulness of riches, which kept 
worrying Christ. That is the treachery of the purse, the wallet and 
the bank-balance, even from the capitalist point of view. They 
were invented as a convenience to the flesh, they have become a 
chain for the spirit. Surely they can be cut out, like some sorts of 
pain. Though deprived of them the human mind might surely 
still keep its delicacy unimpaired, and the human body eat, drink 
and make love. And that is why every bourgeois ought to reve- 
rence the Soviet Pavilion. Even if he is scared at Marxism he 
ought to realize that Russia has tried to put men into touch with 
things. She has come along with a handkerchief and wiped. 
And she has wiped close to the exhibition turnstiles and amid the 
chaos and carnage of international finance. 

Park of Attractions. I did enjoy myself here, I must say. That 
is the difficulty of considering the Exhibition: it is in so many 
pieces and so is oneself. After seeing the German Pavilion, which 
presents Valhalla as a telephone-box, and the Belgian Pavilion, 
which is very lovely, and many other sacred and serious objects, 
I sought the Park of Attractions and went up to space in a 
pretence-balloon. A crane lifted me into the void while another 
crane lowered another balloon, which filled with people when my 
balloon was up. Then my balloon came down and the other 
balloon went up. So I got out and walked over the surface of 
the Earth to the Dervish Theatre. Then I watched other people 
play a game called “D6shabiller vos vedettes”. I thought a 
vedette was a boat. Here it was a tin lady, naked except for a 
cincture of green feathers which the entrants tried to shoot off. 
Then I went to a booth advertising “ Perversitis. Images 
Troublantes”. The entrance fee was a franc, which helped me to 

6 



THE LAST PARADE 


keep my head. Inside were some distorting mirrors, a little black 
savage who kept lashing herself or himself with a bunch of boot- 
laces, and some holes through which improper photographs 
should have been seen, but I got muddled and missed them. 
Oh, the French, the French! Well pleased, I came out. It was a 
lovely evening. The moon, which had been trying various styles 
from Neon to Pantheon, now imitated a pretence-balloon. The 
Park of Attractions, which is extremely clever and pretty, was 
girt with a scenic railway, and at intervals the shrieks of voyagers 
through space rent the night. There was plenty to spend money 
on. Money, money, money! The crowd was what journalists 
call “good-humoured”; and I, a journalist, was part of it. Tuni- 
sians and Moroccans strolled about and sometimes kissed one 
another. Oh, the French! Why are they so good at organizing 
these lighter happinesses ? The English admire them, and them- 
selves produce the suety dreariness, the puffed pretentiousness, of 
Wembley. 

Satan. Unexpected but unmistakable, he appears in the great 
entrance court of the Italian Pavilion, amongst the fragments of 
the lovely Italian past. These fragments are bent to his service — 
Garibaldi, St Francis, Ravenna mosaics, Pompeian doves. Fie is 
to the left as one comes in, clothed all in black, and he dominates a 
large feeble picture of carnage. He is weakness triumphant — that 
is his role in the modern world. He presses a button and a bull 
bursts. He sprays savages with scent. He tilts his head back till 
his chin sticks out like a tongue and his eyeballs stare into his 
brain. Decent people take no notice of him or make fun of him, 
but presently something goes wrong with their lives: certain 
islands are inaccessible, a letter is unanswered, bonds confiscated, 
a friend takes a trip over the frontier and never returns. Else- 
where in this same pavilion are his instruments: things easily let 
off. He has only one remark to make: “I, I, I”. He uses the 
symbols of the sacred and solemn past, but they only mean “I”. 
Here, among superficial splendours of marble, he holds his court, 
and no one can withstand him except van Gogh, and van Gogh 
has nothing to lose. The rest of us are vulnerable, science is 
doing us in, the Angel of the Laboratory switches off the fire- 
works, and burns up the crowd without flame. 

Meanwhile, and all the while, the Earth revolves in her alcove, 
veiled in wool. She has sent samples of her hopes and lusts to 
Paris; that they will again be collected there, or anywhere, is 


7 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 

unlikely, but she herself will look much the same as soon as one 
stands a little back in space. Even if the Mediterranean empties 
into the Sahara it will not make much difference. It is our 
clouds and our snows that show. 

[1937] 


8 



The Menace to Freedom 


The menace to freedom is usually conceived in terms of political 
or social interference — Communism, Fascism, Grundyism, 
bureaucratic encroachment, censorship, conscription and so 
forth. And it is usually personified as a tyrant who has escaped 
from the bottomless pit, his proper home, and is stalking the earth 
by some mysterious dispensation, in order to persecute God’s 
elect, the electorate. But this is too lively a view of our present 
troubles, and too shallow a one. We must peer deeper if we want"' 
to understand them, deep into the abyss of our own characters. 
For politics are based on human nature; even a tyrant is a man, 
and our freedom is really menaced today because a million years . 
ago Man was born in chains. 

That unfortunate event lies too far back for retrospective legis- 
lation ; no declarations of independence touch it ; no League of 
Nations can abolish it. Man grew out of other forms of life; he 
has evolved among taboos; he has been a coward for centuries, 
afraid of the universe outside him and of the herd wherein he 
took refuge. So he cannot, even if he wishes it, be free today. In 
recent centuries — Greece saw the first attempt — he tried to 
become an individual, an entity which thinks for itself, says what 
it thinks, and acts according to its own considered standards; and 
there has been much applause for this attempt in art and litera- 
ture, but it is abortive morally because of those primeval chains. 
The ghosts of chains, the chains of ghosts, but they are strong 
enough, literally stronger than death, generation after generation 
hands them on. More recently still, Man has dallied with the 
idea of a social conscience, and has disguised the fear of the herd 
as loyalty towards the group, and has persuaded himself that 
when he sacrifices himself to the State he is accomplishing a deed 
far more satisfying than anything which can be accomplished 
alone. Alone ? As if he had ever been alone ! He has never had 
the opportunity. Only Heaven knows what Man might accom- 
plish alone! The service that is perfect freedom, perhaps. As 
things are, the poor creature presents a sorry spectacle to the 
philosopher — or, rather, he would do so if philosophers existed. 


9 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


but we have realized since the days of Voltaire and Rousseau 
that they do not exist. There is no such person as a philosopher ; 
no one is detached ; the observer, like the observed, is in chains. 

To the best minds of the. eighteenth and nineteenth centuries 
freedom appeared as a blessing which had to be recovered. They 
believed that a little energy and intelligence would accomplish 
this. The chains had only to be broken violently, the conventions 
patiently unloosed, and either by revolutionary or by constitu- 
tional methods Man would re-enter his heritage and the tyrant 
sink back into his pit. The twentieth century knows more history 
than that and more psychology, and has suflered more; its dis- 
illusion over peace in 1914 has been swiftly followed by its dis- 
illusion over democracy today. The tyrant no longer appears as a 
freak from the pit, he is becoming the norm, country after 
country throws him up, he springs from any class of society with 
an ease which once seemed admirable; requiring only opportu- 
nity and ruthlessness, he supersedes parliaments and kings. And 
consequently many people do not believe in freedom any more, 
and the few who do regard it as something that must be dis- 
covered, not recovered. They think that it is a blessing which we 
have never possessed up to now. They hope for a revelation in 
the human make-up which will allow it to emerge. And there is 
this to be said for such optimism : the human make-up is certainly 
changing; we alter ourselves merely by knowing more about our- 
selves, and we know more about ourselves yearly. Perhaps, under 
the inrush of scientific inventions, the change will proceed still 
quicker. Perhaps, after the storms have swept by and the aero- 
planes crashed into one another and wireless jammed wireless, a 
new creature may appear on this globe, a creature who, we pre- 
tend, is here already: the individual. 

How the globe would get on, if entirely peopled with indi- 
viduals, it is impossible to foresee. However, Man has another 
wish, besides the wish to be free, and that is the wish to love, and 
perhaps something may be born from the union of the two. Love 
sometimes leads to an obedience which is not servile — the obed- 
ience referred to in the Christian epigram above quoted. Love, 
after a dreadful period of inflation, is perhaps coming back to its 
proper level and may steady civilization; up-to-date social 
workers believe in it. It is difficult not to get mushy as soon as 
one mentions love, but it is a tendency that must be reckoned 
with, and it takes as many forms as fear. The desire to devote 
oneself to another person or persons seems to be as innate as the 

10 



THE MENACE TO FREEDOM 


desire for personal liberty. If the two desires could combine, the 
menace to freedom from within, the fundamental menace, might 
disappear, and the political evils now filling all the foreground of 
our lives would be deprived of the poison which nourishes them. 
They will not wilt in our time, we can hope for no immediate 
relief. But it is a good thing, once in a way, to speculate on the 
remoter future. It is a good thing, when freedom is discussed, 
not always to be wondering what ought to be done about Hitler, 
or whether the decisions of the Milk Marketing Board are unduly 
arbitrary. There is the Beloved Republic to dream about and to 
work for through our dreams; the better polity which once 
seemed to be approaching on greased wheels; the City of God. 

[1935] 


II 



Jew-Consciousness 


Long, long ago, while Queen Victoria reigned, I attended two 
preparatory schools. At the first of these, it was held to be a dis- 
grace to have a sister. Any little boy who possessed one was liable 
to get teased. The word would go round: “Oh, you men, have 
you seen the Picktoes’ sister?” The men would then reel about 
with sideway motions, uttering cries of “Sucks” and pretending 
to faint with horror, while the Picktoes, who had hitherto held 
their own socially in spite of their name, found themselves 
banished into the wilderness, where they mourned, Major with 
Minor, in common shame. Naturally anyone who had a sister 
hid her as far as possible, and forbade her to sit with him at a 
Prizegiving or to speak to him except in passing and in a very 
formal manner. Public opinion was not bitter on the point, but 
it was quite definite. Sisters were disgraceful. I got through all right 
myself, because my conscience was clear, and though charges were 
brought against me from time to time they always fell through. 

It was a very different story at my second school. Here, sisters 
were negligible, but it was a disgrace to have a mother. Grabbers 
mother. Gob’s mother, eeugh! No words were too strong, no 
sounds too shrill. And since mothers at that time of life arc com- 
moner than sisters, and also less biddable, the atmosphere of this 
school was less pleasant, and the sense of guilt stronger. Nearly 
every little boy had a mother in a cupboard, and dreadful revela- 
tions occurred. A boy would fall ill and a mother would swoop 
and drive him away in a cab. A parcel would arrive with “ From 
Mummy for her darling” branded upon it. Many tried to divert 
suspicion by being aggressive and fastening female parents upon 
the weak. One or two, who were good at games and had a large 
popularity-surplus, took up a really heroic line, acknowledged 
their mother brazenly, and would even be seen walking with her 
across the playing-field, like King Carol with Madame Lupescu. 
We admired such boys and envied them, but durst not imitate 
them. The margin of safety was too narrow. The convention was 
established that a mother spelled disgrace, and no individual 
triumph could reverse this. 


12 



JEW-GONSCIOUSNESS 

Those preparatory schools prepared me for life better than I 
realized, for having passed through two imbecile societies, a 
sister-conscious and a mother-conscious, I am now invited to 
enter a third. I am asked to consider whether the people I meet 
and talk about are or are not Jews, and to form no opinion on 
them until this fundamental point has been settled. What revolt- 
ing tosh ! Neither science nor religion nor common sense has one 
word to say in its favour. All the same, Jew-consciousness is in 
the air, and it remains to be seen how far it will succeed in 
poisoning it. I don’t think we shall ever reintroduce ghettos into 
England; I wouldn’t say for certain, since no one knows what 
wickedness may not develop in his country or in himself if cir- 
cumstances change. I don’t think we shall go savage. But I do 
think we shall go silly. Many people have gone so already. 
Today, the average man suspects the people he dislikes of being 
Jews, and is surprised when the people he likes are Jews. Having 
been a Gentile at my first preparatory school and a Jew at my 
second, I know what I am talking about. I know how the poison 
works, and I know too that if the average man is anyone in 
particular he is a preparatory-school boy. On the surface, things 
do not look too bad. Labour and Liberalism behave with their 
expected decency and denounce persecution, and respectability 
generally follows suit. But beneath the surface things are not so 
good, and anyone who keeps his ears open in railway carriages or 
pubs or country lanes can hear a very different story. A nasty 
side of our nation’s character has been scratched up — the snig- 
gering side. People who would not ill-treat Jews themselves, or 
even be rude to them, enjoy tittering over their misfortunes; they 
giggle when pogroms are instituted by someone else and syna- 
gogues defiled vicariously, “Serve them right really, Jews.” 
This makes unpleasant reading, but anyone who cares to move 
out of his own enlightened little corner will discover that it is 
true. The grand Nordic argument, “He’s a bloody capitalist so 
he must be a Jew, and as he’s a Jew he must be a Red,” has al- 
ready taken root in our filling-stations and farms. Men employ 
it more frequently than women, and young men more frequently 
than old ones. The best way of confuting it is to say sneeringly, 
“That’s propaganda.” When “That’s propaganda” has been 
repeated several times, the sniggering stops, for no goose likes to 
think that he has been got at. There is another reply whiclj is 
more intellectual but which requires more courage. It is to say, 
“Are you sure you’re not a Jew yourself? Do you know who your 


13 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


eight great-grandparents were? Can you swear that all the eight 
arc Aryan ? ” Cool reasonableness would be best of all, of course, 
but it does not work in the world of today any better than in my 
preparatory schools. The onJy effective check to silliness is silliness 
of a cleverer type. 

"" jew-mania was the one evil which no one foretold at the close 
of the last war. All sorts of troubles were discerned and discern - 
able — nationalism, class-warfare, the split between the haves and 
the have-nots, the general lowering of cultural values. But no 
prophet, so far as I know, had foreseen this anti-Jew horror, 
whereas today no one can see the end of it. There had been 
warnings, of course, but they seemed no more ominous than a 
poem by Hilaire Belloc. Back in India, in 192 1, a colonel lent me 
the Protocols of the Elders of and it was such an obvious fake 
that I did not worry. I had forgotten my preparatory schools, 
and did not sec that they were about to come into their own. 
To me, antisemitism is now the most shocking of all things. It is 
destroying much more than the Jews ; it is assailing the human 
mind at its source, and inviting it to create false categories before 
exercising judgement. I am sure we shall win through. But it will 
take a long time. Perhaps a hundred years must pass before men 
can think back to the mentality of 1918, or can say with the 
Prophet Malachi, “Have we not all one father? Hath not one 
God created us?” For the moment, all that we can do is to dig 
in our heels, and prevent silliness from sliding into insanity. 

[1939] 


14 



Our Deputation 


Our deputation straggled across Whitehall in the sleet, harried 
by taxis upon either flank. It jumped a bank of slush, slid upon the 
pavement, caught hands, upsa! and finally entered the Govern- 
ment Office of its choice. We took off our hats in the vestibule, 
then realized that we had done so too soon and were being des- 
pised by the commissionaires, so we put them on again. Dingi- 
ness and warmth surrounded us; it was like being in the belly of a 
not very healthy monster. At the top of a huge and enormous 
stairway (both adjectives are needed to describe the architecture) 
stretched the huge and enormous room where the Minister had 
consented to receive us and to hear our prayer. Away at the end 
of it loomed the picture of some statesman or royalty, huge and 
enormous, and only partially visible through the spume. Our 
hats came off for good now. Having hung them and our great- 
coats and mufflers upon the branches of a metallic tree, we placed 
ourselves at a table which may justly be called gigantic. The 
chairs seemed miles apart. Honoured but isolated, we could no 
longer hold one another’s hands. After a minute or two, which 
were spent in dreamily looking at papers, a door near the picture 
opened, and the Minister popped in. 

All rose to their feet. The ]^^nistcr recoiled as if horror-struck 
by the commotion he had created. “Sit sit down, do please sit 
sit sit,” he said. We obeyed. The Minister sat too, supported on 
either side by important permanencies belonging to his depart- 
ment. ... He heard our prayer, which was tersely phrased so 
as not to waste his time. He thanked us and announced that 
even now he was attempting to grant it, and to find a statutory 
form in which to embody our wishes and his own. This sounded 
splendid. But he was finding it difficult to do this, he went on, 
very, very difficult difficult. His manner now became bewildered 
and almost childlike; he seemed baffled by the intricacies of 
drafting and began to hint that the task of doing as he liked might 
prove to be beyond his power. “ If you can can can help me, ” h^ 
pleaded, “if you can can can can . . and before we knew where 
we were he was giving us a good dressing-down. He said that if 


»5 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 

wc — not that he meant us personally or any of the organizations 
that we represented — still, if we could check certain undesirable 
tendencies and ensure that certain contraventions of the law 
were not repeated in the fdture we should greatly facilitate his 
task. The deputation bowed its head like a flower in a frost, and, 
gazing at my particular bit of the table, I reflected upon the tech- 
nique which is employed by those in high authority when they 
desire to administer a snub. They carry on like this : they begin a 
sentence deeply, gruffly, gently; it moves along like a large 
friendly animal; then it twitters, turns acid and thin and passes 
right overhead with a sort of whistling sound. An awed pause fol- 
lowed. However, one of the deputation pulled himself together and 
gave, I thought, an excellent performance in the same key. We 
entirely agreed with the Minister, he said, his voice still deep. 
We felt exactly as the Minister felt. No one could deplore more 
than we did the tendencies, the manifestations that had been 
mentioned. But (and here his voice grew thinner) there was 
surely an Act of Parliament already in existence which dealt with 
such matters, and this being so (voice now well overhead) the 
deputation did not quite appreciate why they should be raised 
here. There was now a pause at the ministerial end of the table, 
and it was conveyed to us, by shiftings of pince-nez and bleakness 
of cheeks, that our champion had not contributed anything 
constructive. Next, one of the important permanencies spoke, 
and his voice too went up in the air at the end in a bitter whistle. 
Was the interview going to be an unfriendly one ? No, no, noth- 
ing as definite as that. Civilities were re-exchanged, time was up, 
we thanked and were counter-thanked, our opinions were to be 
given their full weight, and, performing a final can-can, the 
Minister slipped from the room. He had performed his duty, and 
wc ours. Wc went to the tree which had all the time supported 
our greatcoats, we unwound our mufflers from its branches and 
placed our hats upon our heads, and we passed down the stair- 
way back into the snow and the dirt outside, and resolved into 
our component parts. 

[1939] 


16 



Racial Exercise 


Let us do some easy exercises in Racial Purity. 

And let me offer myself for dissection purposes. 

If I go the right way about it, I come of an old English family, 
but the right way is unfortunately a crooked one. It is far from 
easy going in the branches of my genealogical tree. I have to 
proceed via my father to his mother, thence to her mother, and 
thence to her father. If I follow this zigzag course I arrive in the 
satisfactory bosom of a family called Sykes, and have a clear run 
back through several centuries. The Sykeses go right away ever 
so far, right back to a certain Richard of Sykes Dyke who flou- 
rished somewhere about the year 1400. Whether inside their 
dyke, which lay in Cumberland, or outside it, which was York- 
shire, this family never did anything earth-shaking, still they did 
keep going in the documentary sense, they made money and 
married into it, they became mayors of Pontefract or Hull, they 
employed Miss Anna Seward as a governess, and, in the seven- 
teenth century, one of them, a Quaker, was imprisoned on ac- 
count of his opinions in York Castle, and died there. I come of an 
old English family, and am proud of it. 

Unfortunately in other directions the prospect is less extensive. 
If I take a wrong turning and miss the Sykeses, darkness descends 
on my origins almost at once. Mrs James is a case in point, and a 
very mortifying one. Mrs James was a widow who not so very 
long ago married one of my great-grandfathers. I am directly 
descended from her, know nothing whatever about her, and 
should like at all events to discover her maiden name. Vain quest. 
She disappears in the mists of antiquity, like Richard of Sykes 
Dyke, but much too soon. She might be anyone, she may not 
even have been Aryan. When her shadow crosses my mind, I do 
not feel to belong to an old fjeunily at all. 

After that dissection, let us proceed to do our easy Racial 
Exercise. 

It is this: Can you give the names of your eight great-grand- 
parents? 

The betting is at least eight to one against. The Royal Family 



'IHE SECOND DARKNESS 

could, some aristocrats could, and so could a few yeomen who 
have lived undisturbed in a quiet comer of England for a couple 
of hundred years. But most of the people I know (and probably 
most of the people who read these words) will fail. We can often 
get six or seven, seldom the whole eight. And the human mind is 
so dishonest and so snobby that we instinctively reject the eighth 
as not mattering, and as playing no part in our biological make- 
up. As each of us looks back into his or her past, doors open upon 
darkness. Two doors at first — the father and the mother — 
through each of these two more, then the eight great-grand- 
parents, the sixteen great-greats, then thirty-two ancestors . . . 
sixty-four . . . one hundred and twenty-eight . . . until the re- 
searcher reels. Even if the stocks producing us interbred, and so 
reduced the total of our progenitors by using some of them up on 
us twice, even if they practised the strict domestic economy of the 
Ptolemies, the total soon becomes enormous, and the Sykeses in 
it are nothing beside the Mrs Jameses. On such a shady past as 
this — our common past — do we erect the ridiculous doctrine of 
Racial Purity. 

In the future the situation will be slightly less ridiculous. 
Registers of marriage and birth will be kept more carefully, 
bastardy more cunningly detected, so that in a couple of hundred 
years millions of people will belong to Old Families. This should 
be a great comfort to them. It may also be a convenience, if 
governments continue to impose racial tests. Citizens will be in a 
position to point to an Aryan ancestry if their government is 
Aryan, to a Cretinist ancestry if it is Cretin, and so on, and if they 
cannot point in the direction required they will be sterilized. 
This should be a great discomfort to them. Nor will the steriliza- 
tion help, for the mischief has already been done in our own day, 
the mess has been made, miscegenation has already taken place. 
Whether there ever was such an entity as a “pure race” is 
debatable, but there certainly is not one in Europe today — the 
internationalisms of the Roman Empire and of the Middle Ages 
have seen to that. Consequently there never can be a pure race 
in the future. Europe is mongrel for ever, and so is America. 

How extraordinary it is that governments which claim to be 
realistic should try to base themselves on anything so shadowy 
and romantic as race! A common language, a common religion, a 
common culture all belong to the present, evidence about them is 
available, they can be tested. But race belongs to the unknown 
and unknowable past. It depends upon who went to bed with 

i8 



RACIAL EXERCISE 


whom in the year 1400, not to mention Mrs James, and what 
historian will ever discover that ? Community of race is an illu- 
sion. Yet belief in race is a growing psychological force, and we 
must reckon with it. People like to feel that they are all of a 
piece, and one of the ways of inducing that feeling is to tell them 
that they come of pure stock. That explains the ease with which 
the dictators arc putting their pseudo-science across. No doubt 
they are not cynical about it, and take themselves in by what they 
say. But they have very cleverly hit on a weak spot in the human 
equipment — the desire to feel a hundred per cent, no matter 
what the percentage is in. 

A German professor was holding forth the other day on the 
subject of the origins of the German people. His attitude was 
that the purity of the Nordic stock is not yet proved and should 
not be spoken of as proved. But it should be spoken of as a fact, 
because it is one, and the proofs of its existence will be forth- 
coming as soon as scholars are sufficiently energetic and brave. 
He spoke of “courage” in research. According to his own lights, 
he was a disinterested researcher, for he refused to support 
what he knew to be true by arguments which he held to be false. 
The truth, being a priori^ could afford to wait on its mountain top 
until the right path to it was found : the truth of Nordic purity^ 
which every German holds by instinct in his blood. In India I 
had friends who said they were descended from the Sun and 
looked down on those who merely came from the Moon, but they 
were not tense about it and seemed to forget about it between 
times, nor did they make it a basis for political violence and 
cruelty; it takes the West to do that. 

Behind our problem of the eight great-grandparents stands the 
civilizing figure of Mendel. I wish that Mendel’s name was men- 
tioned in current journalism as often as Freud’s or Einstein’s. He 
embodies a salutary principle, and even when we are superficial 
about him he helps to impress it in our minds. He suggests that 
no stock is pure, and that it may at any moment throw up forms 
which are unexpected, and which it inherits from the past. His 
best-known experiments were with the seeds of the pea. It is 
impossible that human beings can be studied as precisely as peas 
— too many factors are involved. But they too keep throwing up 
recessive characteristics, and cause us to question the creed of 
racial purity. Mendel did not want to prove anything. He was- 
not a “courageous” researcher, he was merely a researcher. 
Yet he has imwittingly put a valuable weapon into the hands of 



THE SECOND DARKI^SS 

civilized people. We don’t know what our ancestors were like 
or what our descendants will be like. We only know that we are 
all of us mongrels, dark-haired and light-haired, who must learn 
not to bite one another. Thanks to Mendel and to a few simple 
exercises we can see comparatively clearly into the problem of 
race, if we choose to look, and can do a little to combat the pom- 
pous and pernicious rubbish that is at present being prescribed in 
the high places of the earth. 

[> 939 ] 


20 



Post-Munich 


During the present decade thousands and thousands of innocent 
people have been killed, robbed, mutilated, insulted, imprisoned. 
We, the fortunate exceptions, learn of this from the newspapers 
and from refugees, we realize that it may be our turn next, and 
we know that all these private miseries may be the prelude to an 
incalculable catastrophe, in which the whole of western civiliza- 
tion and half oriental civilization may go down. Perhaps history 
will point to these years as the moment when man’s inventiveness 
finally outbalanced his moral growth, and toppled him downhill. 

The decade being tragic, should not our way of living corres- 
pond ? How can we justify trivialities and hesitations ? Ought we 
not to rise to the great dramatic conception which we sec develop- 
ing around us? The situation is tremendous; it has never been 
equalled, because the world has never before been so closely inter- 
locked. The pillars of the twenty-thousand-year-old house are 
crumbling, the human experiment totters, other forms of life 
watch. Ought we not, at such a moment, to act as Wagnerian 
heroes and heroines, who are raised above themselves by the 
conviction that all is lost or that all can be saved, and stride 
singing into the flames? 

To ask such a question is to answer it. No one who debates 
whether he shall behave tragically can possibly be a tragic char- 
acter. He may have a just sense of the stage; he may discern the 
scene darkening and the powers of evil marching and the ravens 
gathering; he may feel the first breath of the tempest as it lifts 
him off his feet and whirls him backwards. But he is not properly 
cast as an actor; there will be something petty in him — perhaps 
something recalcitrant — ^which mars the aesthetic unity. He will 
not even pay the tribute of unalloyed terror. He will be half 
frightened and half thinking about something else on the very 
steps of the altar, and when the sacrificial knife falls he will perish 
an unworthy victim, a blemished and inferior lamb, of little 
esteem at the banquet of the gods. - 

The state of being half frightened and half thinking about 
something else at the same time is the state of many English people 


21 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


today. It is worth examining, partly because it is interesting, 
partly because, like all mixed states, it can be improved by 
thought. Only Heaven and Hell are stable. It is a 1939 state. 
In 1938 we were fresher and less complex. War was promised or 
threatened us for a certainty; we went inspired or demented 
according to our quality, and our actions bore some relation to 
the ^Zeitgeist's, Exalted in contrary directions, some of us rose 
above ourselves and others committed suicide. One elderly 
gentleman, for instance, described in the newspaper as having a 
great many friends, exclaimed to his housekeeper, “Oh Agnes, 
Agnes, what will become of us all now?” and jumped out of a 
top-storey window in his pyjamas. He saw what he could do and 
he did it, and his conduct when analysed shows parallels with 
Brtinnhilde’s. Others saw something else they could do and, like 
Siegmund, prepared to fight — with what weapons and against 
what they did not stay to consider. These certainties and heroisms 
came to their end when Mr Chamberlain paid his first call upon 
Herr Hitler. I was in London that dark Wednesday night when 
the news of an agreement between them seeped through. It was 
good news, and it ought to have brought great joy; it did bring 
joy to the House of Commons. But unimportant and unpractical 
people often foresee the future more clearly than do those who are 
engaged in shaping it, and I knew at once that the news was only 
good in patches. Peace flapped from the posters, and not upon 
the wings of angels. I trailed about reading the notices, some of 
which had already fallen into the gutter. On the Thursday I 
returned to the country, and found satisfaction there in a chicken- 
run which I had helped build earlier in the week. 

This post-Munich world may not last long, but we are living 
in it now, and we have not any other life. We have to make the 
best of an unexplored and equivocal state, and we are more likely 
to succeed if we give up any hope of simplicity. “Prepare, pre- 
pare!” docs not do for a slogan. No more does “Business as 
usual”. Both of them are imtruc to the spirit of 1939, the spirit 
which is half afraid and half thinking about something else. We 
are urged, by bishops and captains of industry, to face facts, and 
we ought to. But we can only face them by being double-faced. 
The facts lie in opposite directions, and no exhortation will 
group them into a single field. No slogan works. All is lost if the 
totalitarians destroy us. But all is equally lost if we have nothing 
left to lose. And the imperfect and blemished lamb, as he stands 
at the foot of the altar, is partly atremble because of the oncoming 


aa 



POST-MUNIOH 


knife, and partly thinking of other things — of the meadows he has 
walked in, of the games he has played, of the books he has read, 
of the friends he has made. Perhaps he will decide to be a brave 
lamb and not to fear death, and, if he does this, death will certainly 
become painless for him, and mutilation painless until it occurs. 
It is common sense to be brave. But bravery and cowardice are 
only different sides of the same small shield. They do not cover 
the whole complexity. Apart from them exist the “other things ” 
which riddle the little creature’s mind, and make him now 
stronger and now weaker, now the heir of all of the ages, and now 
a contemptible failure: the “other things” which are summed up 
as civilization. 

These mixed states are terrible for the nerves. That is the real 
drawback in them. They give us no chance to feel solid. What 
with the bravery-cowardice factor, and what with the civilization 
factor, we are assailed right and left. Sensitive people are having 
a particularly humiliating time just now. Looking at the inter- 
national scene, they see, with a clearness denied to politicians, 
that if Fascism wins we are done for, and that we must become 
Fascist to win. There seems no escape from this hideous dilemma, 
and those who face it most honestly often go jumpy. They are 
vexed by messages from contradictory worlds, so that whatever 
they do appears to them as a betrayal of something good ; they 
feel that nothing is worth attempting, they drop their hands, 
break off in the middle with a shriek, smash physical or spiritual 
crockery. If they could sell themselves, they would find peace; 
they could, on the one hand, go out hammer and tongs for 
National Service, pacifism, suicide, etc.; or, on the other hand, 
they could shut themselves up with their culture and try to hatch 
sometliing out in isolation, as Remy de Gourmont did in the last 
war and as Jean Giono hopes to do in the next one. But they are 
too fine to sell themselves; that is their glory and their trouble. 
They see through all the slogans. Their grasp on reality para- 
lyses them. Paradoxically, they become more and more negative 
and ineffective, until leadership passes to their inferiors. 

It is not easy to help such people; they are too highly developed 
to be saved by anyone but themselves. One little tip does occur 
to me, but it is only applicable to such of them as still have 
money. Those of them who have money should start spending it 
at once — spending quiets the nerves — and should spend it as if 
civilization is permanent; buy books, go to concerts and plays. 
It is childish to save; thrift was only a virtue so long as it paid, 

23 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 

which it has ceased to do. And it is fantastic to spend too much 
on charity; all the money in England could not stay the world’s 
misery now, or even solve the refugee problem. Spending on art 
has this advantage, apart from the pleasure to be gained from it: 
it docs maintain an artistic framework which may come in useful 
in the future; it is connected with a positive hope. 

This decade has lasted long enough, and the Crisis in particular 
has become a’ habit, indeed almost a joke. Emotions are no 
longer deeply stirred by it, and when Germany or Italy destroys 
an extra country we are upset for a shorter period each time. 
We are worried rather than frantic. But worry is terribly insi- 
dious; besides taking the joy out of life, it prevents the victim 
from being detached and from observing what is happening to 
the human experiment. It tempts him to simplify, since through 
simplification he may find peace. Nagging and stinging night 
and day, it is the undying worm, the worst of our foes. The only 
satisfactory release is to be found in the direction of complexity. 
The world won’t work out, and the person who can realize this, 
and not just say it and lament it, has done as well as can be 
expected of him in the present year. 

[1939] 


24 



Gerald Heard 


While the noise of the conflict grows nearer, it is curious to listen 
to another sound, which bids us hope. Curious, and disturbing; 
for we are reluctant to hope when we have once settled comfort- 
ably down to despair. Some spiritual retreat seems the best that 
remains for a decent person at this moment of general collapse, 
this moment when the governments kill and the churches have 
nothing to say. Spiritual 1 Such a comfortable word ! Mr CJerald 
Heard would agree that salvation lies in its direction, but, dif- 
fering from the rest of our monitors, he would say that the spirit 
is not a dug-out but a bomb. It explodes. It attacks by leaping 
forward inside the individual. Such leaps have occurred in the 
past, and much of his latest book, Pairiy Sex and TimCy is engaged in 
examining them. They have been made unconsciously; today 
man is conscious of himself, and must advance consciously. He 
has to learn how to let himself off. Where is the trigger? And 
how shall he pull it ? 

Of these two questions, the first is easier to answer than the 
second. Mr Heard can point — and most people will agree with 
him — to unused energy inside the human animal. Man has not 
specialized ; he did not go in for wings like the birds, or armour- 
plating like the crocodiles. He kept himself free, with the result 
that he has created aeroplanes and tanks, and with the still more 
important result that he is free to develop psychologically. Man’s 
physical evolution is at an end ; his evolution through the psyche 
can, if he chooses, continue. His capacity for pain and his capa- 
city for sex (in both of which he surpasses his fellow animals) are 
both symptoms of unused energy. If he can detonate his powers, 
he will blow away the economic and political horrors now sur- 
rounding him — horrors which do not merely destroy his body but 
work inward and destroy his power to understand. 

We have here the old doctrine of the Change of Heart, but in a 
violent and earthly form. Mr Heard dislikes othcrworldliness; 
he thinks it is one of the three mistakes that the human race muit 
rectify, the other two mistakes being belief in an anthropomorphic 
God, and belief in reason. He dislikes the Quaker ineffectiveness 


25 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


which, after a quiet sit, goes back to money-making and meals, 
and opposes Armageddon with philanthropy. A Change of 
Heart in the explosive sense does, however, appeal to him, and if 
any tricks, gadgets or drug^ are likely to induce it he is willing to 
try them. They have been practised in the past — the Fakirs and 
the Shakti Yogins have both tried, by experimenting with pain 
and with sex, to enhance normal consciousness. And though we 
need not, and probably should not, copy the past, we can learn 
from it. 

Now one of these gadgets has been the Group. He has always 
invested heavily in the Group. The Group could, in his judge- 
ment, pull the trigger and detonate the bomb. “Where two or 
three are gathered together” an accession of power is felt. He 
thinks that all who believe in Man’s unused powers should gather 
into what he calls “Colleges”. We should there train scientifi- 
cally the development of our consciousness, which has hitherto 
been allowed to sprout haphazard. And the Colleges would con- 
tain three grades of inmates, roughly corresponding to the three 
first grades of the Hindu caste-system. The highest grade, the 
“Neo-Brahmin”, would be indifferent to amusement and to 
possessions, and so have the authority and the integrity out of 
which an International Police Force could be created. 

Here we come up against the third, and the most difficult, of 
his problems. Find the trigger — that is not difficult; most of us 
can find it; most of us know that there are unexplored forces in 
the human heart, which could be used for good. Pull the trigger 
and release the bomb — that is more difficult, still it may be pos- 
sible; it may be possible, through group work and scientific 
technique, to produce the Neo-Brahmin. But hit the mark? 
Ah, that is more difficult still! In other words: Would the least 
notice be taken, by any existing political authority, of Mr Heard’s 
Colleges? 

He faces this, he faces everything. His International Police 
Force is, of course, psychological; it would not work by scolding 
people into good behaviour but by helping them to understand 
themselves. It would, in particular, have a Mission to Dictators. 
But how would they receive such a mission ? Here, as always, his 
analysis is admirable. He draws a convincing picture of the 
Dictator’s misery, and we can endorse it. Our horror and disgust 
at Hitler arc mixed up with pity for a fellow creature who has so 
completely missed the boat. Never, to his dying day, can such a 
man enjoy the joys of which he deprives others. He has cut him- 

96 



GERALD HEARD 


self off for ever from the beauty and the glory of the civilized 
world. Mr Heard would, however, argue that, at certain 
moments, a Hitler can be “got at” by the Neo-Brahmin, the 
trained psychologist, and be brought round; he can be made to 
catch the boat. And he quotes a few examples from history. 
But the examples are unconvincing and meagre. Tyrants have 
seldom listened to sages for more than a minute or two, and they 
have seldom done more than listen. The bomb of the spirit can 
explode, but its direct action seems no stronger than a paper 
bag’s. Mr Heard’s analysis works. His remedy would fail. 

[1939] 


a? 



They Hold Their Tongues 


Some day, some intellectual day, when Satire revisits our mad- 
house, an entertaining book could be written around this war. 
Its title might be They Hold Their Tongues^ and it would be a 
ballet rather than a book. The scene will be laid in the Ministry 
of Decontamination, in the Announcer’s Parlour, and at the 
signs of the Walls Have Ears and the No Bird Sings. The enemy 
will also be shown, listening to us listening to him listening to us 
listening to him in an infinite series of sandbags, and the strain 
will become so great that the military mind will collapse and be 
unable to distinguish objective from base. Truth and falsehood 
will be disintegrated into particles which are so small as to be 
equally useless, and action will become so indirect as to be 
indirigible. Armies march in the correct direction in order to 
deceive their generals, airmen drop lethal messages wrapped round 
dud bombs, clergymen pray for evil lest their congregations be 
led into it, donkeys bark, dogs mew, cats mew too because cats 
are subtler than dogs. Enter the experts, for the military mind is 
conscious today of the existence of the mind. Enter the Science 
of Psychology. Officially installed in a cellar, it abolishes the art 
of knowing what people are like, and ensures that they are in- 
comprehensible to themselves as well as to others. Frankness is as 
fatal as kindness, so all hold their tongues. Yes — it might be an 
amusing entertainment. But it will not be a genial one, and it will 
not end with an all-round laugh and a kindly apotheosis of the 
average man. It will have a touch of the rancid flatness which is 
a part of true satire — for Satire docs not merely bite the victim, 
it lets down the reader too. A few grim survivors, aristocrats, 
may appreciate it. Swift might contribute. Blake even: 

I was buried near this dyke, 

That my friends may weep as much as they like. 

Dante too. Dante the fantasist — ^how wickedly he would have 
described the folk who have held their tongues so well that their 
tongues come off in their hands. There, beyond Phlcgcthon, he 
would place them, and at the base of each tongue would nestle 

28 



THEY HOLD THEIR TONGUES 

an atrophied brain. Their enormous ears are sewn against their 
scalps, so that they listen in with a vengeance. Virgil points at 
the horrible posies, gathers his mantle around him, and registers 
historical disgust. “Here,*’ says Virgil, “is the recompense of 
those who have gagged their countrymen for their country’s 
sake, instead of praising their God. Here are the chiefs of police 
and the card-indexers, and the takers of fingerprints, and Creon, 
King of Thebes, who issued the fatal edict, and the silencers of 
Lorca. Look at them, take warning from those dribbling gullets 
and, while speech is yours, speak.” Far away, beyond the other 
bank of the river, in Paradise, Beatrice, who is the divine wisdom, 
echoes the secular warning: “ Speak, speak,” she cries, “for in the 
beginning was the Word.” 

The light shineth in the darkness, and the light compre- 
hendeth not the darkness. It was the true light, which lighteth 
every man that cometh into the world, but it has had to be put 
out. There is no place in a modern war for spontaneity, and 
never before has the spirit of man been so menaced and insulted. 
The cloud of his inventions has thickened, descended upon him, 
blacked him out. He is dazed by darkness. Night is right, and if 
he holds up so much as a candle to the naughty world the air- 
warden reports him for beckoning to death. One natural gesture, 
and he may destroy himself and his friends. If indeed he still has 
any friends. Old intimacies may survive the censorship, but 
what new ones can grow up under it ? In this scientific mist, this 
skilful and deliberate disintegration, what place can be found for 
the camaraderie and love that have sweetened wars in the past ? 
Blood used to get warm before it was shed. Now — coldness, 
depression, suspicion, loneliness. Courage — abundance of cou- 
rage, but it is the courage that dares not be neighbourly, lest 
the enemy smell out the place. “ Where two or three are gathered 
together. ...” As if by the intervention of Satan, all the old 
religious and moral tags work out wrong. Where two or three are 
gathered together, they are more readily detected by hostile air- 
craft, so they must be prohibited. 

Those of us who were brought up in the old order, when Fate 
advanced slowly, and tragedies were manageable, and human 
dignity possible, know that that order has vanished from the 
earth. We are not so foolish as to suppose that fragments of it 
can be salvaged on some desert island. But since it is the hist 
thing we knew or are capable of knowing, it has become a habit 
which no facts can alter, it has gone underground like the 


29 



THE SECOND DAHKNESS 


subterranean Nile in the Book of the Dead. Love, peace, speech, 
light — these four are the columns of the Temple of Osiris, which 
no longer stands upon earth. Descending with Dante and the old 
Egyptians, we seek subterranean streams, we adjust in some 
spiritual region the balance which has been upset for ever here, 
we rejoin our friends, we punish our victorious foes, and — most 
important of all — we see face to face, and know even as we arc 
known. This is sometimes called faith. The honester word for it 
is habit. It is no more than remembering a tune, it is carrying a 
rhythm in one’s head after the instruments have stopped. 

We hope, of course, that a new tune, inaudible to ourselves, is 
now being played to the young, and that one day it will re-echo 
and give them the strength which certainly keeps us going now. But 
on that point we can get no evidence, and never shall get any. 
We do expect, though, that those who chronicle this age and its 
silliness, and look back from their intellectual day upon us, the 
tongue-holders, will accord us not only pity, which we fully 
deserve, but disdain. 

[1939] 


30 



Three Anti-Nazi Broadcasts 


/ Culture and Freedom 

By profession, I am a writer. I know nothing about economics or 
politics, but I am deeply interested in what is conveniently called 
culture, and I want it to prosper all over the world. My belief is 
that, if the Nazis won, culture would be destroyed in England and 
the Empire. In the Kaiser’s war, Germany was just a hostile 
country. She and England were enemies, but they both belonged 
to the same civilization. In Hitler’s war Germany is not a hostile 
country, she is a hostile principle. She stands for a new and a bad 
way of life and, if she won, would be bound to destroy our ways. 
There is not room in the same world for Nazi Germany and for 
people who don’t think as she does. She says so herself, and if any 
Nazi should honour me by listening to my remarks I do not think 
he will disagree with them. 

Now, Germany is not against culture. She docs believe in 
literature and art. But she has made a disastrous mistake: she has 
allowed her culture to become governmental, and from this mis- 
take proceed all kinds of evils. In England our culture is not 
governmental. It is national: it springs naturally out of our way 
of looking at things, and out of the way we have looked at things 
in the past. It has developed slowly, easily, lazily; the English 
love of freedom, the English countryside, English prudishness and 
hypocrisy, English freakishness, our mild idealism and good- 
humoured reasonableness have all combined to make something 
which is certainly not perfect, but which may claim to be un- 
usual. Our great achievement has been in literature: here we 
rank high, both as regards prose and verse. We have not done 
much in painting or music, and patriots who pretend that we 
have only make us look silly. We have made a respectable, 
though not a sublime, contribution to philosophy. That — so far 
as it can be summed up in a few words — is the English achieve- 
ment. 

But before going on to the German achievement, which was 
also an important one, I want to say something about freedom, 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 

because, to my mind, freedom is bound up with the whole 
question of culture. The Nazis condemn it, in practice and 
theory, and assert that civilization will flourish without it. 
Individualists like myself believe that it is necessary. As a writer, 

I have three reasons for believing in freedom. 

Firstly, the writer himself must feel free, or he may find it 
difficult to fall into the creative mood and do good work. If he 
feels free, sure of himself, unafraid, easy inside, he is in a favour- 
able condition for the act of creation. 

The second reason also concerns the writer — and indeed the 
artist generally. It is not enough to feel free; that is only the 
start. To feel free may be enough for the mystic, who can func- 
tion alone and concentrate even in a concentration camp. The 
writer, the artist, needs something more — namely freedom to 
tell other people what he is feeling. Otherwise, he is bottled up 
and what is inside him may go bad. And here is where the trouble 
starts. The Nazis step forward and say: “One moment, please. 
Allow me, the Government, first to hear what you are wanting to 
say. If I decide it is convenient, you may say it, but not other- 
wise.’’ The Nazis do not and cannot prevent freedom to think 
and to feel — though they would no doubt condemn it from the 
National-Socialist point of view as a selfish waste of time. They 
cannot interfere there, but they can and do prevent freedom to 
communicate. They do step in and say: “Before you publish^ 
your book, before you show your picture, before you sing your ' 
song, I must read, I must look, I must listen.” And the know- 
ledge that they can do this reacts disastrously upon the artist. 
He is not like the mystic; he cannot function in a vacuum, he 
cannot spin talcs in his head or paint pictures in the air, or hum 
tunes under his breath. He must have an audience, he must 
express his feelings, and if he knows he may be forbidden to 
express himself he becomes afraid to feel. Officials, even when 
they are well-meaning, do not realize this. Their make-up is so 
different. They assume that when a book is censored only the 
book in question is affected. They do not realize that they may 
have impaired the creative machinery of the writer’s mind, and 
prevent^ him from writing good books in the future. 

So here are two of my reasons for believing that freedom is 
necessary for culture. The third reason concerns the general 
public. The public, on its side, must be free to read, to listen, 
to look. If it is prevented from receiving the communications 
which the artist sends, it becomes inhibited, like him, though in a 


32 



CULTURE AND FREEDOM 

different way: it remains immature. And immaturity is a great 
characteristic of the public in Nazi Germany. If you look at a 
photograph of our enemies they may strike you as able and brave 
and formidable, even heroic. But they will not strike you as 
grown-up. They have not been allowed to hear, to listen or to 
look. Only people who have been allowed to practise freedom 
can have the grown-up look in their eyes. 

I do not want to exaggerate the claims of freedom. It does not 
guarantee the production of masterpieces, and masterpieces have 
been produced under conditions far from free — the Aeneid, 
for instance, or the plays of Racine. Freedom is only a favourable 
step — or, let us say, three little steps. When writers (and artists 
generally) feel easy, when they can express themselves openly, 
when their public is allowed to receive their communications, 
there is a chance of the general level of civilization rising. 
Before the war, it was rising a little in England, it was rising a 
great deal in France, it was rising in Czechoslovakia, Scandinavia, 
the Netherlands. In Germany it was falling. During the last ten 
years her achievements in art, in literature, in speculation, 
in unapplied science, were contemptible. But she was perfect- 
ing her instruments of destruction and she now hopes by 
their aid to reduce neighbouring cultures to the same level as 
her own. 

When a culture is genuinely national, it is capable, when the 
hour strikes, of becoming super-national, and contributing to 
the general good of humanity. It gives and takes. It wants to 
give and take. It has generosity and modesty, it is not confined by 
political and geographic boundaries, it docs not fidget about 
purity of race or worry about survival, but, living in the present 
and sustained by the desire to create, it expands wherever 
human beings are to be found. Our civilization was ready to do 
this when the hour struck, and the civilization of France, our lost 
leader, was ready, too. We did not want England to be England 
for ever; it seemed to us a meagre destiny. We hoped for a world 
to which, when it had been made one by science, England could 
contribute. Science has duly unified the world. The hour has 
struck. We cannot contribute. And why? 

The historian of the future, and he alone, will be able to answer 
this question authoritatively. He will sec the true perspective of 
this 1940 crisis, and it may appear as small to him as the crisis* of 
1914 already appears to us. Our present troubles may be the pre- 
lude to a vast upheaval which we cannot hope to understand. 


33 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


Wc have to answer out of our ignorance, and as well as we can. 
And to my limited outlook Hitler’s Germany is the villain, it is 
she who, when the hour struck, ruined the golden moment 
and ordered an age of bloodshed. 

Germany also has a great national culture. She was supreme 
in music, eminent in philosophy, weak (like England) in the 
visual arts, and highly gifted though not supremely gifted in 
literature. That, put in a sentence, was her achievement, and all 
the world was wanting to share it with her, and to profit by it, 
and to give and take. The Nazis willed otherwise. A national 
culture did not suit them. It had to be governmental. It can 
therefore never become super-national or contribute to the gene- 
ral good of humanity. Germany is to be German for ever, and 
more German with each generation. “ What is ‘to be German* ? ’* 
asked Hitler, in a speech he made a few years ago at Munich, and 
he replied: “The best answer to this question does not define, it 
lays down a law. *’ Did you ever hear such an extraordinary reply? 
To be German is — to be German. Thus labelled, Germany 
presses on to a goal which can be described in exalted language, 
but which is the goal of a fool. For, all the time she shouts and 
bullies her neighbours, the clock of the world moves on, and 
science makes the world one. “Gangsterdom for ever” is a 
possibility and the democracies are fighting against it. “ Germany 
for ever” is an uneducated oflicial’s dream. 

When a national culture becomes governmental, it is always 
falsified. For it never quite suits the official book. The words and 
the images that have come down to us through the centuries are 
often contradictory, they represent a bewildering wealth of 
human experience, which it is our privilege to enjoy, to examine 
and to build on. A free country allows its citizens this privilege. 
A totalitarian country cannot, because it fears diversity of opin- 
ion. I The heritage of the past has to be overhauled so that the 
output of the present may be standardized, and the output of the 
present has to be standardized or Germany would cease to be 
German. Nothing could be more logical than the dreary blind- 
alley down which the Nazis advance, and down which they want 
to herd tlie whole human family. It leads nowhere, not even into 
Germany. They have got into it because they have worshipped 
the State. And they cannot feel safe until the rest of the world is in 
it too. Wherever they see variety, spontaneity, anything different 
from themselves, they are doomed to attack it. Germany’s very 
gifts, her own high cultural achievement, must be recompounded 


34 



CULTURE AND FREEDOM 


and turned to poison, so that the achievements of others may 
perish. 


2 What Has Germany Done to the Germans? 

It is most important to remember that Germany had to make war 
on her own people before she could attack Europe. So much has 
been happening lately that we sometimes forget that during the 
past seven years she robbed and tortured and interned and ex- 
pelled and killed thousands and thousands of her own citizens. 
When she had got rid of them, and not until then, she was in a 
position to transfer operations, and start against France and 
England. The 1914 war was not preceded by all this cruelty 
inside Germany, nor by these floods of unhappy and innocent 
refugees. 

So here are a few instances of Germany’s treatment of Germans. 

I shall not be so much concerned with physical bullying as with 
the attempts of the Nazis to bully and twist the mind. They are 
no fools — it is a great mistake to keep on making fun of them — 
and a good deal of what they say sounds at first sensible and even 
noble. For instance, they say that instinct is superior to reason, 
and character better than book-learning, I agree. Baldur von 
Schirach, who was until lately one of their youth-leaders, says: 
“The Nazi revolution is and always has been a revolution of the 
soul. It reveals that power which the intellectual will deny, since 
it is as inconceivable to him as is the God who gave it : the power 
of the soul and sentiment. ” 

This sounds all right, but why does the soul always require a 
machine-gun? Why can the character only cope with the intel- 
lect when it has got it inside a concentration camp, and is armed 
with a whip? Why does the instinct instinctively persecute? 
Why does sentiment mean insensitiveness? On the surface, the 
Nazi creed seems not too bad; scratch the surface, and you will 
find intolerance and cruelty. I cannot go through the list of 
German writers and painters and sculptors and architects and 
musicians and philosophers and scientists and theologians who 
have been persecuted by Germany in the past seven years. It 
would take too long. But think of Einstein, the greatest scientist 
living, who gave us a new view of the universe: he is in exile. 
Think of Freud, the psychologist: he has died in exile. Think of 
Thomas Mann: he only wanted to write his novels and live in 


35 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


peace, but he had to write them in his own way, he had to be 
independent, and he is in exile. Think of the smaller people, 
friends of my own; I know a writer who escaped from Vienna, a 
charming fellow, whose crime it was to be a Jew, and another 
writer, a pure-blooded Aryan from Berlin, whose crime it was to 
think. I see my own sort of person being downed and insulted, 
and when I am told that the Nazi revolution is a revolution of the 
soul — ^well, I wonder. 

Not long ago, at Munich, Hitler made a speech about art. 
He began by complaining that the Jews, with their so-called 
artistic criticism, had muddled the public, and put art on the 
level of fashion, which changes yearly. Art, he said, was not 
fashionable, not international, but eternal, like the national spirit 
?)f Germany, and the artist must set up a monument to his coun- 
try, not to himself. You may not object to this; indeed, when 
Hitler distinguishes art from fashion, you may quite well agree. 
But he goes on: “As for the degenerate artists, I forbid them to 
force their so-called experiences upon the public. If they do see 
fields blue, they are deranged, and should go to an asylum. If 
they only pretend to see them blue, they are criminals, and should 
go to prison. I will purge the nation of them, and let no one 
take part in their corruption — his day of punishment will come. *’ 

Just as the scientist may not settle what experiments to make, 
so the artist may not settle how to express himself. In both 
cases an official intervenes. The official has never seen a field 
blue, and that decides for all time the colour of fields. The 
speech ends with the crack of a whip; the audience has been 
transported from the art-gallery to the concentration camp, 
where it will remain unless it mends its ways and enjoys what 
Hitler says is beautiful. This threat of a purge runs through all 
Nazi culture; the idea that one person may like one thing and 
another another is intolerable to it; it cannot be happy unless it 
bullies. I do not myself see fields blue, but I do not get upset 
about it, and when a great artist like van Gogh does see them 
blue I am thankful to look for a moment through his eyes. 

Now for literature. Let me recall that famous Burning of the 
Books, for it illustrates better than any single event can the way in 
which Germany has been behaving to Gerxnans. The Nazis 
wished it to symbolize their cultural oudook, and it will. It took 
place on 13 May 1933. That night twenty-five thousand volumes 
were destroyed outside the University of Berlin, in the presence of 
forty thousand people. Most people enjoy a blaze, and we are 

36 



WHAT HAS GERMANY DONE TO THE GERMANS? 

told that the applause was tremendous. Some of the books were 
by Jews, others Communist, others liberal, others “unscientific”, 
and all of them were “ un-German”. It was for the Government 
to decide what was un-German. There was an elaborate ritual. 
Nine heralds came forward in turn, and consigned an author 
with incantations to the flames. For example, the fourth herald 
said: “ Condemning the corrosion of the soul by the exaggeration 
of the dangers of war! Upholding the nobility of the human 
spirit! I consign to the flames the writings of Sigmund Freud.” 
The seventh herald said: “Condemning the literary betrayal 
of the World War soldier! Upholding the education of our 
people in the spirit of reality ! I consign to the flames the writings 
of Erich Marie Remarque”, the author of the novel All Quiet on 
the Western Front, There were holocausts in the provinces too, and 
students were instructed to erect “pillars of infamy” outside their 
universities; the pillar should be “a thick tree- trunk, somewhat 
above the height of a man”, to which were to be nailed “the 
utterances of those who, by their participation in activities de- 
famatory of character, have forfeited their membership in the 
German nation”. Note the reference to “character”, it is signifi- 
cant. “ Character”, like the “soul”, is always an opportunity for 
brutality. The Burning of the Books was followed by a systematic 
control of literature. A bureau was created to look after public 
libraries, second-hand shops were purged, books may not be 
published without licence, and a licence is also required for 
commenting. 

Unfortunately for the Nazis, not all books are modern books. 
Germany has had a great literature in the past, and they have had 
to do something about that. They have been especially troubled 
by Goethe and Heine. Over Heine they have taken a strong line, 
since he was a Jew; they have denounced him as “the most 
baneful fellow that has ever passed through German life, soul- 
devastating, soul-poisoning” (notice again the “soul”), and have 
banned his works. Goethe had to be treated with more respect — 
so far as I know, they have not banned Goethe. But they rightly 
consider him their arch-enemy. For Goethe believed in tolera- 
tion, he was the nationalist who is ripe for super-nationalism, he 
was the German who was wanting Germany’s genius to enrich the 
whole world. His spirit will re-arise when this madness and 
cruelty have passed. 

I could give more examples, but I have said enough to show 
how Germany has behaved to her own people. When she had 


37 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


finished with them, she turned against us. It is all part of a single 
movement, which has as its aim the fettering of the writer, the 
scientist, the artist and the general public all over the world. 


3 What Would Germany Do to Us? 

[What would the Nazis do to civilization in these islands and in 
Empire if they w on ? 

I don’t suggest that conditions over here are perfect. During 
the present century, the writer and the artist generally have 
worked under growing disabilities; the law of libel hits them un- 
fairly, so does the dramatic censorship. And since last September 
things have got worse, owing to regulations necessary for the 
Defence of the Realm; publishers and printers are frightened of 
handling anything which may be thought disloyal, with the 
result that much original work and valuable comment are being 
stifled. This cannot be helped ; a war is on, so it is no use whin- 
ing. But it is as well to remember that as soon as the war is won 
people who care about civilization in England will have to begin 
another war, for the restoration and extension of cultural freedom. 

But, although cultural conditions are not perfect in this country 
(and it would be cant to pretend that they are), they arc paradise 
compared with the conditions in Germany, and heaven compared 
with the conditions which Germany would impose on us if she 
beat us. I want to describe what she would do to us if she got the 
chance. 

You may say: “Oh, but how do you know? No doubt the 
Nazis would impose appalling peace terms on us if they won, 
but why should they interfere with our culture?” My answer to 
that is: “I do know, because I have the record of what they have 
done to other countries, particularly to Czechoslovakia and to 
Poland.” Destruction of national culture is part of their pro- 
gramme of conquest. In Czechoslovakia, for instance, they have 
banned the operas of Smetana and the plays of Capek. They 
have revised schoolbooks, falsified Czech history, forbidden the 
singing of Czech national songs, and subsidized German educa- 
tional institutions, for which the Czechs have to pay. In Polahd 
the fate of culture has been still more tragic, since Poland is a 
conquered country: their conduct in Poland is the model which 
the Nazis would follow if they got over here. Listen, forinstance, 
how they have treated the University of Cracow — and then put 

38 



WHAT WOULD GERMANY DO TO US? 

for “ Cracow’’ “ Oxford ” or any other university which you know. 
Last November, 170 professors and teachers at Cracow were 
summoned by the chief of the Gestapo to the hall of the university 
and placed under arrest on the grounds that they were continuing 
their work without Nazi permission. They were sent straight off 
to concentration camps in Germany, where sixteen of them died, 
and their places were filled by Nazi nominees. I know Cracow. 
I had friends in the university there of whom I can get no news. 
They have welcomed me to their charming little flat overlooking 
the green boulevards ; they have shown me their noble city with 
its great Catholic churches and its marvellous fortress. Owing to 
their kindness and hospitality, it has happened that Cracow has 
become for me a symbol of Nazi bullying on the Continent, and I 
can hardly see its name without trembling with rage. I mention 
it now — that lost and lovely place — because one needs to 
visualize in these terrible times. It does not convey much if 
I say, “The Nazis would reorganize and re-staff our educa- 
tional system.” It does convey something if I say, “They would 
treat Oxford as they have treated Cracow.” They are stamping 
out culture everywhere in Poland, so far as they can. They con- 
sider it their mission to do so, on the ground that the Poles are 
naturally inferior to Germans. “A Pole is a Pole,” writes a Nazi 
journalist, “and any attempt at familiarity must be rebuffed. ’ * 

Let us now consider the effect of a Nazi victory upon our 
civilization. 

Our press, our publishing and printing trades, our universities 
and the rest of our educational system would be instantly con- 
trolled. So would theatres, cinemas and the wireless. The Bri- 
tish Government (assuming that one remained) would be held 
responsible for their conduct, and have to punish them if they 
did anything which annoyed Berlin. There would be complete 
remodelling. In these respects, the methods adopted in Czecho- 
slovakia and Poland would be followed, and with the maximum 
of brutality; the joy of baiting Englishmen in England would be 
intoxicating. Germanization would probably not be attempted. 
But the G^tapo and the rest of the occupying force would, of 
course, import such Nazi culture as was necessary for their spiri- 
tual sustenance, and we should have to pay for German libraries 
and German schools, into which, as members of an inferior race, 
we should not be allowed to go. 

What about our literature? The fate of individual writers 
would be hard. Those of any eminence would probably be 


39 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 

interned and shot. This, however painful to themselves, would 
not, it is true, be a great blow to literature, for by the time writers 
have become eminent they have usually done their best work. 
What would matter, whaf would be disastrous, is the intimidation 
of our younger writers — men and women in their twenties and 
thirties, who have not yet had the chance to express themselves. 
The invaders would take good care to frighten or cajole them. 
Forbidden to criticize their conquerors, forbidden to recall the 
past glories of their country, or to indulge that free movement of 
tbe mind which is necessary to the creative act, they would be 
confined to trivialities, or to spreading their masters’ opinions. 
A bureau would be established, and licences to create or to 
comment would be issued, as in Germany by Dr Goebbels, and 
withdrawn if independence were shown. Rebelliousness might 
mean death. I don’t think this is a fancy picture. It is only what 
is happening in Europe, and why should we get special terms? 
And I am not accusing our enemies of any general hatred of cul- 
ture. They like culture. They are human beings, who enjoy 
reading books or going to plays and films, just as we do. They too 
want to be happy. The Germans don’t hate culture, but they 
are doomed to oppose it because it is mixed up with thought and 
action, because it is mixed up with the individual; just as it is 
their doom to oppose science and religion. 

Would they try to burn English books too? I don’t think so. 
It would mean too big a blaze. We should probably be left with 
our existing libraries and allowed to read our classics in such 
spare time as we possessed. I do think, though, that a different 
interpretation of English literature would be attempted in our 
schools. They would put it to our young people that our best 
writers were Nazis at heart, and so try to warp their minds. It is 
interesting, in this connection, to read what Nazi critics have been 
saying lately about Shakespeare and Carlyle. They have not got 
a bad case over Carlyle — he had something of the Nazi about 
him: he despised individualism and liberty and worshipped the 
dictator-hero. However, Carlyle also said, “Thought is stronger 
than artillery-parks,” and this side of him the Nazis don’t men- 
tion. The case of Shakespeare is more complicated. The C3rcr- 
mans have, for several generations, invested so heavily in Shake- 
speare that they dare not, even under the present regime, sell 
out; and they arc worried because we like Shakespeare too — ^wc 
even maintain that he was an Englishman. So they have had to 
make him into “ the special case of a poet who is not affected by a 


40 



WHAT WOULD GERMANY DO TO US? 


war with England”, and they brandish him at us for our castiga- 
tion, and to our shame. You may think this foolish, but it shows 
their mentality: it shows how they twist things and how they 
would twist our minds through our own national literature if they 
got into our country. 

Those seem to me the chief cultural points in a Nazi conquest 
— and you will remember that I am keeping to this particular 
aspect, and not talking about politics and economics. They want 
our land, it is true; they want our money — sure. But they also 
want to alter our civilization until it is in line with their own. If 
my view of them is right, they cannot help doing this : it is, so to 
speak, their fate. They have identified civilization with the State, 
and the National Socialist state cannot be secure until no 
civilization exists except the particular one which it approves. 

This being so, I think we have got to go on with this hideous 
fight. I cannot see how we are to make terms with Hitler, much 
as I long for peace. For one thing, he never keeps his word; 
for another, he tolerates no way of looking at life except his own 
way. A peace which was the result of a Nazi victory would 
surely not differ much from a Nazi war. Germans would no 
longer be killed, but they would go on killing others until no 
one survived to criticize them. In the end, they might achieve 
world-domination and institute a culture. But what sort of 
culture would it be ? What would they have to work with ? For 
you cannot go on destroying lives and living processes without 
destroying your own life. If you continue to be greedy and dense, 
if you make power and not understanding your aim, if, as a 
French friend of mine puts it, you erect “a pyramid of appetites 
on a foundation of stupidity”, you kill the impulse to create. 
Creation is disinterested. Creation means passionate under- 
standing. Creation lies at the heart of civilization like fire in the 
heart of the earth. Around it are gathered its cooler allies, 
criticism, the calm use of the intellect, informing the mass and 
moulding it into shape. The intellect is not everything — the 
Nazis are quite right there. But no one can insult the intellect as 
they do without becoming sterile and cruel. We know their 
cruelty. We should see their sterility if this orgy of destruction 
were to stop, and they turned at their Ftihrer’s command to the 
production of masterpieces. 

In this difficult day when so many of us are afraid, in this dafy 
when so many brave plans have gone wrong and so many devices 
have jammed, it is a comfort to remember that violence has so far 

41 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


never worked. Even when it seems to conquer, it fails in the long 
run. This failure may be due to the Divine Will. It can 
also be ascribed to the strange nature of Man, who refuses to 
live by bread alone, and is the only animal who has attempted to 
understand his surroundings. 


[1940] 



Tolerance 


Everybody is talking about reconstruction. Our enemies have 
their schemes for a new order in Europe, maintained by their 
secret police, and we on our side talk of rebuilding London or 
England, or western civilization, and we make plans how this is 
to be done. Which is all very well, but when I hear such talk, 
and see the architects sharpening their pencils and the contrac- 
tors getting out their estimates, and the statesmen marking out 
their spheres of influence, and everyone getting down to the job, 
a very famous text occurs to me: “Except the Lord build the 
house, they labour in vain that build it.’* Beneath the poetic 
imagery of these words lies a hard scientific truth, namely, unless 
you have a sound attitude of mind, a right psychology, you can- 
not construct or reconstruct anything that will endure. The text 
is true, not only for religious people, but for workers whatever 
their outlook, and it is significant that one of our historians, Dr 
Arnold Toynbee, should have chosen it to preface his great study 
of the growth and decay of civilizations. Surely the only sound 
foundation for a civilization is a sound state of mind. Architects, 
contractors, international commissioners, marketing boards, 
broadcasting corporations will never, by themselves, build a new 
world. They must be inspired by the proper spirit, and there 
must be the proper spirit in the people for whom they are work- 
ing. For instance, we shall never have a beautiful new London 
until people refuse to live in ugly houses. At present, they don’t 
mind; they demand more comfort, but arc indififerent to civic 
beauty; indeed they have no taste. I live myself in a hideous 
block of flats, but I can’t say it worries me, and imtil we arc 
worried all schemes for reconstructing London beautifully must 
automatically fail. 

What, though, is the proper spirit? We agree that the basic 
problem is psychological, that the Lord must build if the work is 
to stand, that there must be a sound state of mind before diplo- 
macy or economics or trade conferences can function. But what 
state of mind is sound ? Here we may differ. Most people, when 
asked what spiritual quality is needed to rebuild civilization, will 


43 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


reply “Love**. Men must love one another, they say; nations 
must do likewise, and then the series of cataclysms which is 
threatening to destroy us will be checked. 

Respectfully but firmly,*! disagree. Love is a great force in 
private life; it is indeed the greatest of all things; but love in 
public affairs does not work. It has been tried again and again : 
by the Christian civilizations of the Middle Ages, and also by 
the French Revolution, a secular movement which reasserted the 
Brotherhood of Man. And it has always failed. The idea that 
nations should love one another, or that business concerns or 
marketing boards should love one another, or that a man in 
Portugal should love a man in Peru of whom he has never heard — 
it is absurd, unreal, dangerous. It leads us into perilous and vague 
sentimentalism. “Love is what is needed,” we chant, and then 
sit back and the world goes on as before. The fact is, we can only 
love what we know personally. And wc cannot know much. In 
public affairs, in the rebuilding of civilization, something much 
less dramatic and emotional is needed, namely tolerance. Tole- 
rance is a very dull virtue. It is boring. Unlike love, it has always 
had a bad press. It is negative. It merely means putting up with 
people, being able to stand things. No one has ever written an 
ode to tolerance, or raised a statue to her. Yet this is the quality 
which will be most needed after the war. This is the sound state 
of mind which we are looking for. This is the only force which will 
enable different races and classes and interests to settle down 
together to the work of reconstruction. 

The world is very full of people — appallingly full; it has never 
been so full before — and they are all tumbling over each other. 
Most of these people one doesn’t know and some of them one 
doesn’t like; doesn’t like the colour of their skins, say, or the shapes 
of their noses, or the way they blow them or don’t blow them, or 
the way they talk, or their smell, or their clothes, or their fond- 
ness for jazz or their dislike of jazz, and so on. Well, what is one to 
do? There are two solutions. One of them is the Nazi solution. 
If you don’t like people, kill them, banish them, segregate them, 
and then strut up and down proclaiming that you are the salt of 
the earth. The other way is much less thrilling, but it is on the 
whole the way of the democracies, and I prefer it. If you don’t 
like people, put up with them as well as you can. Don’t try to 
love them; you can’t, you’ll only strain yourself. But try to tole- 
rate them. On the basis of that tolerance a civilized future may be 
built. Certainly I can see no othar foundation for the post-war world. 


44 



TOLERANCE 


For what it will most need is the negative virtues: not being 
huffy, touchy, irritable, revengeful. I have lost all faith in posi- 
tive militant ideals; they can so seldom be carried out without 
thousands of human beings getting maimed or imprisoned. 
Phrases like “ I will purge this nation”, “ I will clean up this city”, 
terrify and disgust me. They might not have mattered when the 
world was emptier ; they are horrifying now, when one nation is 
mixed up with another, when one city cannot be organically 
separated from its neighbours. And another point: reconstruc- 
tion is unlikely to be rapid. I do not believe that we are psycho- 
logically fit for it, plan the architects never so wisely. In the long 
run, yes, perhaps; the history of our race justifies that hope. 
But civilization has its mysterious regressions, and it seems to me 
that we are fated now to be in one of them, and must recognize 
this and behave accordingly. Tolerance, I believe, will be 
imperative after the establishment of peace. It’s always useful 
to take a concrete instance ; and I have been asking myself how I 
should behave if, after peace was signed, I met Germans who had 
been fighting against us. I shouldn’t try to love them; I shouldn’t 
feel inclined. They have broken a window in my little ugly flat for 
one thing. But I shall try to tolerate them, because it is common 
sense, because in the post-war world we shall have to live with 
Germans. We can’t exterminate them, any more than they have 
succeeded in exterminating the Jews. We shall have to put up 
with them, not for any lofty reason, but because it is the next 
thing that will have to be done. 

I don’t, then, regard tolerance as a great eternally established 
divine principle, though I might perhaps quote “In my Father’s 
house are many mansions” in support of such a view. It is just 
a makeshift, suitable for an overcrowded and overheated planet. 
It carries on when love gives out, and love generally gives out as 
soon as we move away from our home and our friends, and 
stand among strangers in a queue for potatoes. Tolerance is 
wanted in the queue; otherwise we think, “ Why will people be so 
slow ? ” ; it is wanted in the tube, or “ Why will people be so fat ? ” ; 
it is wanted at the telephone, or “Why are they so deaf?” or, 
conversely, “Why do they mumble?” It is wanted in the street, 
in the office, at the factory, and it is wanted above all between 
classes, races and nations. It’s dull. And yet it entails imagina- 
tion. For you have all the time to be putting yourself in someohe 
elsc’s place. Which is a desirable spiritual exercise. 

This ceaseless effort to put up with other people seems tame, 


45 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


almost ignoble, so that it sometimes repels generous natures, and 
I don’t recall many great men who have recommended tolerance. 
St Paul certainly did not. Nor did Dante. However, a few names 
occur. Going back over tu^o thousand years, and to India, there 
is the great Buddhist Emperor Asoka, who set up inscriptions 
recording not his own exploits but the need for mercy and mutual 
understanding and peace. Going back about four hundred years, 
to Holland, there is the Dutch scholar Erasmus, who stood apart 
from the religious fanaticism of the Reformation and was abused 
by both parties in consequence. In the same century there was 
the Frenchman Montaigne, subtle, intelligent, witty, who lived 
in his quiet country house and wrote essays which still delight and 
confirm the civilized. And England : there was John Locke, the 
philosopher; there was Sydney Smith, the Liberal and liberaliz- 
ing divine; there was Lowes Dickinson, writer of A Modem 
Symposium^ which might be called the Bible of Tolerance. And 
Germany — yes, Germany; there was Goethe. All these men 
testify to the creed which I have been trying to express: a nega- 
tive creed, but necessary for the salvation of this crowded jostling 
modern world. 

Two more remarks. First, it is very easy to see fanaticism in 
other people, but difficult to spot in oneself. Take the evil of racial 
prejudice. We can easily detect it in the Nazis; their conduct has 
been infamous ever since they rose to power. But we ourselves — 
are we guiltless ? We are far less guilty than they are. Yet is there 
no racial prejudice in the British Empire? Is there no colour 
question? I ask you to consider that, those of you to whom 
tolerance is more than a pious word. My other remark is to fore- 
stall a criticism. Tolerance is not the same as weakness. Putting 
up with people docs not mean giving in to them. This compli- 
cates the problem. But the rebuilding of civilization is bound to 
be complicated. I only feel certain that unless the Lord builds 
the house they will labour in vain who build it. Perhaps, when 
the house is completed, love will enter it, and the greatest force 
in our private lives will also rule in public life. 

[1941] 


46 



Ronald Kidd 

An address delivered at his funeral 

**Und eine Freiheit macht uns alle frei.'* 


In the past few months the Council for Civil Liberties has lost 
both its President, Henry Nevinson, and its first Secretary. It is 
the President who should be speaking now, but as he is no longer 
with us I have been asked to give a short address. I do so reluc- 
tantly; but I see that an address is necessary, for Ronald Kidd 
was a public figure, and it is seemly that there should be some 
public discourse here, however inadequate. 

Those who knew him best, better than I did, will agree with 
me, I think, that the public side in him, the civic side, the side 
that serves humanity, was superbly developed. Of course he 
had his personal life, like the rest of us, but it is this altruistic 
activity that so impressed, this service of the elusive principle 
which we call liberty; which we can none of us define, but in 
.which we all believe. I suppose he must have had an enthusiasm 
for liberty all his life, but it became noticeable in 1934, when 
he called together a few others who shared his hopes and his 
anxieties, and founded this Council. I was not one of the original 
group, but I joined soon afterwards, and I well remember our 
original offices. They were in a mews. The staircase was so 
narrow that one could scarcely get up it, and the room at the 
top was so small that one could scarcely turn round. There was 
no organization and no staff. And from that room Kidd hired a 
great hall down in Westminster, and convened there the great 
meeting of protest against the Sedition Bill which first brought 
our Council into general notice. From that moment he never 
looked back; he moved from enterprise to enterprise, and he not 
only achieved himself: he left foundations upon which others arc 
building and will build. The little room has become a suite of 
offices, the reaching out of individual to individual has become a 
great national organization with branches and affiliations all over 
the British Isles, and indeed outside them. That Sedition Bill I 
mentioned — the B.B.C. would not report it, but when Ronald 
Kidd died this week accounts of his life and work were broadca'^t 
over the Continent and the Empire as well as at home. 

That is fame. That is success. But there is something more to 


47 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


remember. He gave to that work all his strength, and he did, 
literally, die that we might be free. If he had cared for our free- 
dom less, if he had worked less, if he had nursed his health and 
considered his own comfort, he could have been alive now, 
though it could not have been a life he valued. I know the poli- 
tical and philosophical difficulties inherent in this idea of free- 
dom: freedom for what; freedom to do what; freedom at whose 
expense, and so on. As a conception it is negative; but as a faith 
it is positive, and Ronald Kidd upheld it till his dying day. 

When during his last illness I went down to see him in his 
private residence and later in the hospital, I found him still 
concentrated on tlie Council and its work, on our annual general 
meeting which he could not attend, on his pamphlet The Fight for 
a Free Press, which has just appeared. He knew he was ill and he 
could discuss his symptoms, but they never held the first rank, as 
they do with ordinary invalids. 

This is not the place, nor have I the ability, to discuss his out- 
look, or to illustrate the various methods through which he 
worked; pamphlets, speeches, interviews with Cabinet Ministers, 
visits to police stations and police courts, street watchings — all 
played their part. One thing strikes me, though, and that is why I 
quoted that line from Schiller: he knew that freedom is not the 
perquisite of any one section of the community; neither the 
employing classes nor the working classes nor the artistic and 
literary classes can be truly free unless all arc free. That — un- 
formulated perhaps — was his belief, and perhaps that was why 
such contradictory judgements were passed on him by those who 
had not worked with him. I have heard him accused in different 
quarters of being a Communist, a Gladstonian Liberal, a secret 
agent, the wrong sort of Irishman and a hopeless John Bull. 
Happy the man who is accused of so much, for it proves that liis 
mind is alive. Kidd was active, whenever he saw the possibility 
of promoting and extending civil liberty. He was tethered to no 
other formula. 

When a man dies, he becomes part of history and one thinks of 
historical parallels, and it occurs to me today — I don’t know 
whether you will agree — that there was in our friend something 
of the Ancient Roman, the Tribune of the People, who contends 
that the Res Puhlica should be the possession of all. Even in his 
outward habit I sec something of this; in his gravity, his courtesy, 
his eloquence. I see it still more in his selflessness, his stubborn 
courage, his loyalty, his refusal to admit defeat, his adherence to 

48 



RONALD KIDD 


principles. There is here something that suggests the grandeur 
and the sternness of certain heroes of the ancient world, and their 
strife for an individual liberty compatible with civic righteous- 
ness. May his example remain with us! May we continue the 
fight that is never done I 

[1942] 


49 



The Tercentenary of the 
Areopagitica • 


Milton’s Areopagitica was published exactly three hundred years 
ago. The Parliament was fighting the King. Milton upheld 
Parliament, but it had just given him a very unpleasant shock. 
It had passed a defence regulation for the control of literature, 
and had placed all printed matter under a censorship. “No book 
etc. shall from henceforward be printed or exposed for sale unless 
the same be first approved of and licensed by such persons” as 
Parliament shall appoint. 

There are usually two motives behind any censorship — good, 
and bad. The good motive is the desire of the authorities to safe- 
guard and strengthen the community, particularly in times of 
stress. The bad motive is the desire of the authorities to suppress 
criticism, particularly of themselves. Both these motives existed 
in 1644, as they do in 1944, and, in Milton’s judgement, the bad 
then predominated over the good. He was profoundly shocked 
that Parliament, which fought for liberty, should be suppressing 
it, and he issued his Areopagitica as a protest. It is the most famous 
of his prose works — partly because it is well written, but mainly 
because it strikes a blow for British freedom. It has been much 
praised, and sometimes by people who do not realize what they 
are praising and what they are letting themselves in for. In 
celebrating its tercentenary let us do so with open eyes. 

To begin with one of Milton’s smaller points: the incon- 
venience of a censorship to a creative or scholarly writer. All 
that he says here is true, though not of prime importance. It is 
intolerable, he exclaims, that “serious and elaborate writings, as 
if they were no more than the theme of a Grammar-lad . . . must 
not be uttered without the cursory eyes of a temporizing and 
extemporizing licenser”. It is being treated like a schoolboy 
after one is grown up. The censor is probably some overworked 
and dim little official who knows nothing about literature and is 
scared of anything new. Yet the writer has to “trudge” to him 
to get his script passed, and if he makes any alteration afterwards 
he must make application again. “I hate a pupil teacher, I 
endure not an instructor,” proud Milton cries, and, when he is 


50 



THE TERCENTENARY OF THE “ AREOPAGITIGA ” 


reminded that the censor does after all represent the State, he 
hits back fiercely with “The State shall be my governors, but not 
my critics”. All this is very much what a scholar or a creative 
artist might charge against a censor today : the big mind having 
to apply for permission to the fidgety small mind, and the small 
mind being supported by the authority of the State. It is all 
quite true ; though why should not distinguished writers be put to 
trouble if it is to the general good ? Why should they not submit 
to censorship if the national welfare requires it ? 

But there is much more to the problem, and the bulk of the 
Areopagitica is occupied with larger questions. Censorship means 
uniformity and monotony; and they mean spiritual death. 
“Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be 
much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion 
in good men is but knowledge in the making.” And he 
apostrophizes London at war in words we might gladly use 
today : 

Behold now this vast City ; a City of refuge, the mansion-house 
of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his [God’s] pro- 
tection ; the shop of war hath not there more anvils and ham- 
mers waking . . . than there be pens and heads there, sitting 
by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new 
notions and ideas . . . others as fast reading, trying all things, 
assenting to the force of reason and convincement. 

All this free writing and reading will pass with the institution of 
the censorship, and its disappearance means the spiritual 
impoverishment of us all, whether we write and study or not. 
Intellectuals, in Milton’s opinion, are not and cannot be apart 
from the community, and are essential to its health. 

And then he tackles the problem of bad or harmful books. 
Might it not be well to prohibit them? He answers, No. It is 
preferable that bad books should be published rather than that 
all books should be submitted before publication to a government 
official. What is bad will be forgotten, and free choice in reading 
is as important as it is in action. Truth is “a perpetual progres- 
sion”. Also who is to settle what is bad ? Who indeed! I recall 
in this connection an argument I had with an acquaintance 
during the first war. He was for prohibiting bad books, and when 
I asked him which books he answered “Conrad’s novels”. He 
did not care for them. He was an able public-spirited fellow, and 
later on he became an M.P. 


c 


51 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 

If there is no censorsliip, is the writer or the newspaper editor 
to be above the law? Not at all. That is not Milton’s position. 
If a book or pamphlet or newspaper is illegal it can, after publica- 
tion, be prosecuted. The grounds of prosecution in his day were 
two — blasphemy and libel — and they hold good in our day, 
prosecutions for blasphemy now being very rare and prosecutions 
for libel very frequent. Milton did not set writers above the law. 
He did insist on punishment afterwards rather than censorship 
beforehand. Let a man say what he likes and then suffer if it is 
illegal. This seems to me the only course appropriate to a demo- 
cracy. It is for the courts, and for no one else, to decide whether a 
book shall be suppressed. 

Milton, wouldst thou be living at this hour? “Yes and No,” 
Milton would answer. He would certainly be heart and soul with 
us in our fight against Germany and Japan, for they stand for all 
that he most detested. And he would note with approval that 
there is no direct censorship of books. But he would disapprove 
of the indirect censorship operating on them through the paper 
control. At the present moment, most of the paper available 
goes to government departments, the publication of new books 
gets cut down, and most of our great English classics have gone 
out of print. Nor would he have approved of any attempt of 
publishers to combine and decide what books should be pub- 
lished. Would he have liked the wireless? Yes and No. He 
would have been enthusiastic over the possibilities of broadcast- 
ing, and have endorsed much it does, but he would not approve 
of the “agreed script” from which broadcasters are obliged to 
read for security reasons. He believed in free expression and in 
punishment afterwards if the expression turned out to be illegal; 
but never, never supervision beforehand, and whether the super- 
vision was called censorship or licensing or “agreed script” 
would have made no difference to him. You can argue that the 
present supervision of broadcasters is necessary and reasonable, 
and that a silly or cranky speaker might do endless harm on the 
air. But if you feel like that you must modify your approval of 
the Areopagitica, You cannot have it both ways. And do not say, 
“Oh, it’s different today — there’s a war on.” There was equally 
a war on in 1644. The fact is, we are willing enough to praise 
freedom when she is safely tucked away in the past and cannot be 
a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we 
cannot foresee, we get nervous about her, and admit censorship. 
Yet the past was once the present, the seventeenth centiuy was 


52 



THE TERCENTENARY OF THE “aREOPAOITIGA” 

once “now”, with an unknown future, and Milton, who lived 
in his “now” as we do in ours, believed in taking risks. 

In places, then, the Areopagitica is a disturbance to our self- 
complacency. But in other places it is an encouragement, for 
Milton exalts our national character in splendid words. He was 
intensely patriotic — on the grounds that, when France was a 
tyranny and Germany a muddle, we were insisting on freedom 
of speech and being admired for it by European scholars. He 
had travelled on the Continent before the Civil War, and sat 
among her learned men, and, he goes on, 

been counted happy to be born in such a place of Philosophic 
freedom, as they supposed England was, while themselves did 
nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning 
amongst them was brought. ... I took it as a pledge of future 
happiness, that other Nations were so persuaded of her liberty. 

And he is proud — and how justly — of the variety of opinion 
incidental to our democracy, of “ this flowery crop of knowledge 
and new light” as opposed to that “stark and dead congealment 
of wood and hay and stubble” engendered by the pressure of 
totalitarianism. Our enemies, he notes, mistake our variety for 
weakness — exactly the mistakes the Germans were to make about 
us both in 1914 and in 1939. 

The adversary again applauds, and waits the hour, when they 
have branched themselves out, saith he, small enough into 
parties and partitions, then will be our time. Fool! he secs 
not the firm root, out of which we all grow, though into 
branches : nor will beware until he sec our small divided mani- 
ples cutting through at every angle of his ill-united and un- 
wieldy brigade. 

“Ill united and unwieldy brigade” — could there be a phrase 
more prophetic of the Axis ? But we must not dwell on the phrase 
too much, for the subject of the Areopagitica is not tyranny abroad 
but the need, even in wartime, of liberty at home. Not the beam 
in Dr Goebbels’s eye, but the mote in our own eye. Can we take 
it out ? Is there as much freedom of expression and publication 
in this country as there might be? That is the question which, 
on its tercentenary, this explosive little pamphlet propounds. 

[* 944 ] 


53 



The Challenge of our Time' 


Temperamentally, I am an individualist. Professionally, I am 
a writer, and my books emphasize the importance of personal 
relationships and the private life, for I believe in them. What 
can a man with such an equipment, and with no technical know- 
ledge, say about the Challenge of our Time ? Like everyone else, 
I can see that our world is in a terrible mess, and having been to 
India last winter I know that starvation and frustration can reach 
proportions unknown to these islands. Wherever I look, I can 
sec, in the striking phrase of Robert Bridges, “the almighty 
cosmic Will fidgeting in a trap”. But who. set the trap, and how 
was it sprung? If I knew, I might be able to unfasten it. I do not 
know. How can I answer a challenge which I cannot interpret ? 
It is like shouting defiance at a big black cloud. Some of the 
other speakers share my diffidence here, I think. Professor 
Bernal docs not. He perceives very precisely what the Challenge 
of our Time is and what is the answer to it. Professor Bernal’s 
perceptions are probably stronger than mine. They are certainly 
more selective, and many things which interest or upset me do 
not enter his mind at all — or enter it in the form of cards to be 
filed for future use. 

I belong to the fag-end of Victorian liberalism, and can look 
back to an age whose challenges were moderate in their tone, 
and the cloud on whose horizon was no bigger than a man’s 
hand. In many ways it was an admirable age. It practised 
benevolence and philanthropy, was humane and intellectually 
curious, upheld free speech, had little colour-prejudice, believed 
that individuals are and should be different, and entertained a 
sincere faith in the progress of society. The world was to become 
better and better, chiefly through the spread of parliamentary 
institutions. The education I received in those far-off and fantas- 
tic days made me soft, and I am very glad it did, for I have seen 
plenty of hardness since, and I know it does not even pay. Think 
of the end of Mussolini — the hard man, hanging upside-down 

^From a broadcast series; Professor Bernal had been one of the previous 
speakers. 


54 



THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME 

like a turkey, with his dead mistress swinging beside him. But 
though the education was humane it was imperfect, inasmuch as 
we none of us realized our economic position. In came the nice 
fat dividends, up rose the lofty thoughts, and we did not realize 
that all the time we were exploiting the poor of our own country 
and the backward races abroad, and getting bigger profits from 
our investments than we should. We refused to face this unpala- 
table truth. I remember being told as a small boy, “Dear, don’t 
talk about money, it’s ugly” — a good example, that, of Victorian 
defence mechanism. 

All that has changed in the present century. The dividends 
have shrunk to decent proportions and have in some cases dis- 
appeared. The poor have kicked. The backward races are kick- 
ing — and more power to their boots. Which means that life has 
become less comfortable for the Victorian liberal, and that our 
outlook, which seems to me admirable, has lost the basis of golden 
sovereigns upon which it originally rose, and now hangs over the 
abyss. I indulge in these reminiscences because they lead to the 
point I want to make. 

If we are to answer the Challenge of our Time successfully, we 
must manage to combine the new economy and the old morality. 
The doctrine of laissez-faire will not work in the material world. 
It has led to the black market and the capitalist jungle. We must 
have planning and ration-books and controls, or millions of 
people will have nowhere to live and nothing to eat. On the 
other hand, the doctrine of laissezfaire is the only one that seems 
to work in the world of the spirit; if you plan and control men’s 
minds you stunt them, you get the censorship, the secret police, 
the road to serfdom, the community of slaves. Our economic 
planners sometimes laugh at us when we arc afraid of totalitarian 
tyranny resulting from their efforts — or rather they sneer at us, 
for there is some deep connection between planning and sneering 
which psychologists should explore. But the danger they brush 
aside is a real one. They assure us that the new economy will 
evolve an appropriate morality, and that when all people arc 
properly fed and housed they will have an outlook which will be 
right, because they are the people. I cannot swallow that. I 
have no mystic faith in the people. I have in the individual. 
He seems to me a divine achievement and I mistrust any view 
which belittles him. If anyone calls you a wretched little indi- 
vidual — and I’ve been called tliat — don’t you take it lying down. 
You are important because everyone else is an individual too — 


55 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


including the person who criticizes you. In asserting your 
personality you are playing for your side. 

That, then, is the slogan with which I would answer, or par- 
tially answer, the Challenge of our Time. We want the New 
Economy with the Old Morality. We want planning for the 
body and not for the spirit. But the difficulty is this; where does 
the body stop and the spirit start? In the Middle Ages a hard- 
and-fast line was drawn between them, and according to the 
medieval theory of the Holy Roman Empire men rendered their 
bodies to Caesar and their souls to God. But the theory did not 
work. The Emperor, who represented Caesar, collided in prac- 
tice with the Pope, who represented Christ. And we find our- 
selves in a similar dilemma today. Suppose you are planning the 
world distribution of food. You can’t do that without planning 
world population. You can’t do that without regulating the 
number of births and interfering with family life. You must 
supervise parenthood. You are meddling with the realms of the 
spirit, of personal relationships, although you may not have 
intended to do so. And you are brought back again to that 
inescapable arbiter, your own temperament. When there is a 
collision of principles would you favour the individual at the\ 
expense of the community, as I would? Or would you prefer! 
economic justice for all at the expense of personal freedom? 

In a time of upheaval like the present, this collision of prin- 
ciples, this split in one’s loyalties, is always occurring. It has just 
occurred in my own life. I was brought up as a boy in one of the 
home counties, in a district which I still think the loveliest in 
England. There is nothing special about it — it is agricultural 
land, and could not be described in terms of beauty spots. It 
must always have looked much the same. I have kept in touch 
with it, going back to it as to an abiding city and still visiting the 
house which was once my home, for it is occupied by friends. 
A farm is through the hedge, and when the farmer there was 
eight years old and I was nine we used to jump up and down 
on his grandfather’s straw ricks and spoil them. Today he is a 
grandfather himself, so that I have the sense of five generations 
continuing in one place. Life went on there as usual until this 
spring. Then someone who was applying for a permit to lay a 
water-pipe was casually informed that it would not be granted 
since the whole area had been commandeered. Commandeered 
for what ? Had not the war ended ? Appropriate officials of the 
Ministry of Town and Country Planning now arrived from 

56 



THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME 

London and announced that a satellite town for sixty thousand 
people is to be built. The people now living and working there 
are doomed ; it is death in life for them and they move in a night- 
mare. The best agricultural land has been taken, they assert; the 
poor land down by the railway has been left; compensation is 
inadequate. Anyhow, the satellite town has finished them off as 
completely as it will obliterate the ancient and delicate scenery. 
Meteorite town would be a better name. It has fallen out of a 
blue sky. 

“Well,” says the voice of planning and progress, “why this 
sentimentality? People must have houses.” They must, and I 
think of working-class friends in north London who have to 
bring up four children in two rooms, and many are even worse 
off than that. But I cannot equate the problem. It is a collision 
of loyalties. I cannot free myself from the conviction that some- 
thing irreplaceable has been destroyed, and that a little piece of 
England has died as surely as if a bomb had hit it. I wonder what 
compensation there is in the world of the spirit for the destruction 
of the life here, the life of tradition. 

These are personal reminiscences and I am really supposed to 
be speaking from the standpoint of the creative artist. But you 
will gather what a writer who also cares for men and women 
and for the countryside must be feeling in the world today. 
Uncomfortable, of course. Sometimes miserable and indignant. 
But convinced that a planned change must take place if the world 
is not to disintegrate, and hopeful that in the new economy there 
may be a sphere both for human relationships and for the des- 
pised activity known as art. What ought the writer, the artist, to 
do when faced by the Challenge of our Time ? Briefly, he ought 
to express what he wants and not what he is told to express by the 
planning authorities. He ought to impose a discipline on himself 
rather than accept one from outside. And that discipline may be 
aesthetic, rather than social or moral: he may wish to practise 
art for art’s sake. That phrase has been foolishly used and often 
raises a giggle. But it is a profound phrase. It indicates that art 
is a self-contained harmony. Art is valuable not because it is 
educational (though it may be), not because it is recreative 
(though it may be), not because everyone enjoys it (for everybody 
does not), not even because it has to do with beauty. It is valuable 
because it has to do with order, and creates little worlds *of its 
own, possessing internal harmony, in the bosom of this disordered 
planet. It is needed at once and now. It is needed before it is 


57 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 

appreciated and independent of appreciation. The idea that it 
should not be permitted until it receives communal acclaim, 
and unless it is for all, is perfectly absurd. It is the activity which 
brought man out of original darkness and differentiates him from 
the beasts, and we must continue to practise and respect it 
through the darkness of today. 

I am speaking like an intellectual, but the intellectual, to my 
mind, is more in touch with humanity than is the confident 
scientist, who patronizes the past, over-simplifies the present, and 
envisages a future where his leadership will be accepted. Owing 
to the political needs of the moment, the scientist occupies an 
abnormal position, which he tends to forget. He is subsidized by 
the terrified governments who need his aid, pampered and shel- 
tered as long as he is obedient, and prosecuted under Official 
Secrets Acts when he has been naughty. All this separates him 
from ordinary men and women and makes him unfit to enter into 
their feelings. It is high time he came out of his ivory laboratory. 
We want him to plan for our bodies. We do not want him to 
plan for our minds, and we cannot accept, so far, his assurance 
that he will not. 

[>946] 


58 



George Orwell 


George Orwell’s originality has been recognized in this country; 
his peculiar blend of gaiety and grimness has been appreciated, 
but there is still a tendency to shy away from him. This appeared 
in our reception of his most ambitious work, 1 ^ 84 , America 
clasped it to her uneasy heart, but we, less anxious or less pre- 
scient, have eluded it for a variety of reasons. It is too bourgeois, 
we say, or too much to the left, or it has taken the wrong left 
turn, it is neither a novel nor a treatise, and so negligible, it is 
negligible because the author was tuberculous, like Keats; any- 
how, we can’t bear it. This last reason is certainly a respectable 
one. We all of us have the right to shirk unpleasantness, and we 
must sometimes exercise it. It may be our only defence against 
the right to nag. And that Orwell was a bit of a nagger cannot be 
denied. He found much to discomfort him in his world and 
desired to transmit it, and in 1 ^ 84 . he extended discomfort into 
agony. There is not a monster in that hateful apocalypse which 
does not exist in embryo today. Behind the United Nations lurks 
Oceania, one of his three world-states. Behind Stalin lurks Bi^ 
Brother, which seems appropriate, but Big Brother also lurks 
behind Churchill, Truman, Gandhi, and any leader whom 
propaganda utilizes or invents. Behind the North Koreans, who 
are so wicked, and the South Koreans, who are such heroes, lur^ 
the wicked South Koreans and the heroic North Koreans, into 
which, at a turn of the kaleidoscope, they may be transformed. 
Orwell spent his life in foreseeing transformations and in stamp- 
ing upon embryos. His strength went that way. 1^84 crowned 
his work, and it is understandably a crown of thorns. 

While he stamped he looked around him, and tried to amelior- 
ate a world which is bound to be unhappy. A true liberal, he 
hoped to help through small things. Programmes mean po- 
groms. Look to the rose or the toad or, if you think them more 
significant, look to art or literature. There, in the useless, lies our 
scrap of salvation. 


If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be 

59 



THE SECOND DARKNESS 


happy in a labour-saving Utopia ? . . . I think that by retaining 
one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies 
and . . . toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little 
more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that 
nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely 
makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet 
for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship. 

The above is a quotation from Shooting an Elephant^ his post- 
humous volume of essays. Here is another quotation from it: 

If you wanted to add to the vast fund of ill-will existing in the 
world at this moment, you could hardly do it better than by a 
series of football matches between Jews and Arabs, Germans 
and Czechs . . . each match to be watched by a mixed audience 
of 100,000 spectators. 

Games are harmless, even when played unfairly, provided they 
are played privately. It is international sport that helps to kick 
the world downhill. Started by foolish athletes, who thought it 
would promote “understanding”, it is supported today by the 
desire for political prestige and by the interests involved in the 
gate-moneys. It is completely harmful. And elsewhere he con- 
siders the problem of nationalism generally. British imperialism, 
bad as he found it in Burma, is better than the newer imperialisms 
that are ousting it. All nations arc odious but some arc less 
odious than others, and by this stony, unlovely path he reaches 
patriotism. To some of us, this seems the cleanest way to reach it. 
We believe in the roses and the toads and the arts, and know 
that salvation, or a scrap of it, is to be found only in them. In the 
world of politics we see no salvation, we are not to be diddled, 
but we prefer the less bad to the more bad, and so become patriots, 
while keeping our brains and hearts intact. 

This is an uneasy solution, and no one can embrace Orwell’s 
works who hopes for ease. Just as one is nestling against them, 
they prickle. They encourage no slovenly trust in a future where 
all will come right, dear comrades, though we shall not be there 
to see. They do not even provide a mystic vision. No wonder 
that he could not hit it off with H. G. Wells. What he does 
provide, what does commend him to some temperaments, is his 
belief in little immediate things and in kindness, good temper and 
accuracy. He also believes in “the people”, who, with their 
beefy arms akimbo and their cabbage-stalk soup, may survive 
when higher growths arc cut down. He does not explain how 

6 o 



GEORGE ORWELL 


“ the people” are to make good, and perhaps he is here confusing 
belief with compassion. 

He was passionate over the purity of prose, and in another 
essay he tears to bits some passages of contemporary writing. It 
is a dangerous game — the contemporaries can always retort — but 
it ought to be played, for, if prose decays, thought decays and all 
the finer roads of communication are broken. Liberty, he argues, 
is connected with prose, and bureaucrats who want to destroy 
liberty tend to write and speak badly, and to use pompous or 
woolly or portmanteau phrases in which their true meaning or 
any meaning disappears. It is the duty of the citizen, and par- 
ticularly of the practising journalist, to be on the lookout for such 
phrases or words and to rend them to pieces. This was successfully 
done a few years ago in the case of “bottleneck”. After “a 
vicious circle of interdependent bottlenecks” had been smashed 
in Thejfimes, no bottleneck has dared to lift its head again. 
Many critics besides Orwell are fighting for the purity of prose 
and deriding officialese, but they usually do so in a joking offhand 
way, and from the aesthetic standpoint. He is unique in being 
immensely serious, and in connecting good prose with liberty. 
jLike most of us, he docs not define liberty, but being a liberal he 
thinks that there is more of it here than in Stalin’s Russia or 
franco’s Spain, and that we need still more of it, rather than even 
less, if our national tradition is to continue. If we write and speak 
clearly, we are likelier to think clearly and to remain compara- 
tively free. He gives six rules for clear writing, and they are not 
bad ones. 

Posthumous sweepings seldom cohere, and Shooting an Elephant 
is really a collection of footnotes to Orwell’s other work. Readers 
can trace in it affinities with Animal Farm or ig 84 or The Road to 
Wigan Pier or Burmese Days, They can also trace his development. 
The earlier writing (e.g. the title-essay) is forceful but flat. There 
arc no reverberations. In the later work — despite his preoccupa- 
tion with politics — more imaginative notes are sounded. We part 
company with a man who has been determined to sec what he 
can of this contradictory and disquieting world and to follow its 
implications into the unseen— or anyhow to follow them round 
the corner. 

[1950] 


61 




Part Two 

What I Believe 




What I Believe 


I do not believe in Belief. But this is an Age of Faith, and there 
are so many militant creeds thaL in self-defence, one has to 
formulate a creed of one’s own. (Tolerance, good temper and 
sympathy are no longer enough in a world which is rent by 
religious and racial persecution, in a world where ignorance rules, 
and Science, who ought to have ruled, plays the subservient pimp^ 
Tolerance, good temper and sympathy — they are what matter 
really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come 
to the front before long. But for the moment they are not 
enough, their action is no stronger than a flower, battered be- 
neath a military jackboot. They want stiffening, even if the 
process coarsens them. Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, 
a sort of mental starch, which ought to be applied as sparingly as 
possible. I dislike the stuff. I do not believe in it, for its own sake, 
at all. Herein I probably differ from most people, who believe in 
Belief, and are only sorry they cannot swallow even more than 
they do. My law-givers are Erasmus and Montaigne, not Moses 
and St Paul. My temple stands not upon Mount Moriah but in 
that Elysian Field where even the immoral are admitted. My 
motto is: “Lord, I disbelieve — help thou my unbelief” 

I have, however, to live in an Age of Faith — the sort of epoch 
I used to hear praised when I was a boy. It is extremely un- 
pleasant really. It is bloody in every sense of the word. And I 
have to keep my end up in it. Where do I start? 

With personal relationships. Here is something comparatively^ 
solid in a world full of violence and cruelty, ^ot absolutely solid, 
for Psychology has split and shattered the idea of a “ Person ’j, and 
has shown that there is something incalculable in each of us, 
which may at any moment rise to the surface and destroy our 
normal balance. We don’t know what we are like. We can’t 
know what other people arc like. How, then, can we put any 
trust in personal relationships, or cling to them in the gathering 
political storm ? In theory we cannot. But in practice we can and 
do. Though A is not unchangeably A, or B unchangeably B, there 
can still be love and loyalty between the two. For the purpose of 

65 



WHAT 1 BELIEVE 


living one has to assume that the personality is solid, and the 
“self’’ is an entity, and to ignore all contrary evidence. And since 
to ignore evidence is one of the characteristics of faith, I certainly 
can proclaim that I believe in personal relationships. 

Starting from them, I get a little order into the contemporary 
chaos. One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not 
to make a mess of life, and it is therefore essential that they should 
not let one down. They often do. The moral of which is that I 
must, myself, be as reliable as possible, and this I try to be. But 
reliability is not a matter of contract — that is the main difference 
between the world of personal relationships and the world of 
business relationships. It is a matter for the heart, which signs no 
documents. In other words, reliability is impossible unless there 
is a natural warmth. Most men possess this warmth, though 
they often have bad luck and get chilled. Most of them, even 
[ when they are politicians, want to keep faith. And one can, at all 
events, show one’s own little light here, one’s own poor little trem- 
bling flame, with the knowledge that it is not the only light that is 
shining in the darkness, and not the only one which the darkness 
-does not comprehend. Personal relations are despised today. They 
arc regarded as bourgeois luxuries, as products of a time of fair 
weather which is now past, and we are urged to get rid of them, 
and to dedicate ourselves to some movement or cause instead. I 
^ hate the idea of causes, anc^if I had to choose between betraying 
my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the 
guts to betray my country^ Such a choice may scandalize the 
Thodern reader, and he may stretch out his patriotic hand to the 
telephone at once and ring up the police. It would not have 
shocked Dante, though. Dante places Brutus and Cassius in the 
lowest circle of Hell because they had chosen to betray their 
friend Julius Caesar rather than their country Rome. Probably 
one will not be asked to make such an agonizing choice. Still, 
there lies at the back of every creed something terrible and hard 
for which the worshipper may one day be required to suffer, and 
there is even a terror and a hardness in this creed of personal 
relationships, urbane and mild though it sounds. Love and 
loyalty to an individual can run counter to the claims of the State. 
When they do — down with the State, say I, which means that the 
State would down me. 

This brings me along to Democracy, “ Even love, the beloved 
Republic, TTiat feeds upon freedom and lives”. Democracy is 
not a beloved Republic really, and never will be.' But it is less 

66 



WHAT I BELIEVE 


hateful than other contemporary forms of gpyernmexit,\ and to 
that extent it deserves our support. It does start from the assump- 
tion tHaFthe mdivi dual is important, and that all types are needed 
to make a civilization. It does not divide its citizens into the 
bossers and the bossed — as an efficiency-regime tends to do. frhey 
people I admire most are those who are sensitive and want to 
create something or discover something, Jfand do not see life in 
terms of power, and such people get more of a chance under a / 
democracy than elsewhcrd They found religions, great or small, 
or they produce literatuTre and art, or they do disinterested 
scientific research, ^or they may be what is called “ordinary 
people”, who are creative in their private lives, bring up their 
children decently, for instance, or help their neighbours^ All 
these people need to express themselves ; they cannot do so unless 
society allows them liberty to do so, and the society whijpJxjalJi^ 
them most liberty is a demo cracy,^ 

Democracy ITaranbtKer merit. It allows criticism, and if theref 
is not public criticism there are bound to be hushed-up scandals.! 
That is why I believe in the press, despite all its lies and vulgarity, 
and why I believe in Parliament. Parliament is often sneered at 
because it is a Talking Shop. I believe in it because it is a talking 
shop. I believe in the Private Member who makes himself a 
nuisance. He gets snubbed and is told that he is cranky or ill- 
informed, but he does expose abuses which would otherwise 
never have been mentioned, and very often an abuse gets put 
right just by being mentioned. Occasionally, too, a well-meaning 
public official starts losing his head in the cause of efficiency, and 
thinks himself God Almighty. Such officials are particularly 
frequent in the Home Office. Well, there will be questions about 
them in Parliament sooner or later, and then they will have to 
mind their steps. Whether Parliament is cither a representative 


body or an efficient one is questionable, but I value it because it 
criticizes and talks, and because its chatter gets widely reported. 

So two cheers for Democracy: one because it admits varicty| 
and two because it permits criticism. Two cheers arc quirf 
enough ; there is no occasion to give three. C Only Love thel 
Beloved Republic deserves that. | 

What about Force, though ? While we are trying to be sensitive 
and advanced and affectionate and tolerant, an unpleasant ques- 
tion pops up: does not all society rest upon force? If a gdvem^ 
ment cannot count upon the police and the army, how 
can it hope to rule? And if an individual gets knocked on 


67 



WHAT I BELIEVE 


the head or sent to a labour camp, of what significance are 
his opinions ? a 

This dilemma does not worry me as much as it does somc\ I 
realize that all society rests upon force.( But all the great creative 
actions, all the decent human relations, occur during the inter- 
vals when force has not managed to come to the front. These 
intervals are what matter.^ I want them to be as frequent and as 
lengthy as possible, and I call them “civilization’’. jBome people 
idealize force and pull it into the foreground aria worship it, 
instead of keeping it in the background as long as possible. I 
think they make a mistake, and I think that their opposites, the 
mystics, err even more when they declare that force docs not 
exist. I believe that it exists, and that one of our jobs is to prevent 
it from getting out of its box. It gets out sooner or later, and then 
it destroys us and all the lovely things which we have made. But 
it is not out all the time, for the fortunate reason that the strong 
are so stupid. Consider their conduct for a moment in The 
Nibelung's Ring. The giants there have the guns, or in other words 
the gold; but they do nothing with it, they do not realize that 
they are all-powerful, with the result that the catastrophe is de- 
layed and the castle of Valhalla, insecure but glorious, fronts 
the storms. Fafnir, coiled round his hoard, grumbles and grunts; 
we can hear him under Europe today; the leaves of the wood 
already tremble, and the Bird calls its warnings uselessly. Fafnir 
will destroy us, but by a blessed dispensation he is stupid and slow, 
and creation goes on just outside the poisonous blast of his breath. 
The Nietzschean would hurry the monster up, the mystic would*^ 
say he did not exist, but Wotan, wiser than cither, hastens to 
create warriors before doom declares itself. The Valkyries are 
symbols not only of courage but of intelligence ; they represent the 
human spirit snatching its opportunity while the going is good, 
and one of them even finds time to love. Briinnhilde’s last song 
hymns the recurrence of love, and since it is th^ prmli gge of ar t to 
e xaggera te she goes even further, and proclaims thVlwe whicR is 
eternally triumphant, and feeds upon freedom and lives. 

So that is what I feel about force and violence. It is, alas! 
the ultimate reality on this earth, but it does not always get to 
the front. Some people call its absences “decadence’’; J call 
them “civilization” and find in such interludes the chief justifica- 
tion for the human experiment. I look the other way until fate 
strikes me. Whether this is due to courage or to cowardice in my 
own case I cannot be sure. But I know that, if men had not 

68 



WHAT I BELIEVE 


looked the other way in the past, nothing of any value would sur- 
vive. The people I respect most behave as if they were immortal 
and as if society was eternal. Both assumptions arc falsi?_;..bpil^ of 
them must be accepted as true if we are to go on eating and working 
and loving, and are to keep open a few breathing-holes for thc^ 
human spirit. No millennium seems likely to descend upon 
humanity; no better and stronger League of Nations will be 
instituted ; no form of Christianity and no alternative to Christi- 
anity will bring peace to the world or integrity to the individual ; 
no “change of heart” will occur. And yet we need not despair,^ 
indeed, we cannot despair ; the evidence of history shows us that 
men have always insisted on behaving creatively under the 
shadow of the sword ; that they have done their artistic and scien- 
tific and domestic stuff for the sake of doing it, and that we had 
better follow their example under the shadow of the aeroplane^. 
Others, with more vision or courage than myself, see the salva- 
tion of humanity ahead, and will dismiss my conception of civil- 
ization as paltry, a sort of tip-and-run game. Certainly it is pre- 
sumptuous to say that we cannot improve, and that Man, who 
has only been in power for a few thousand years, will never learn 
to make use of his power. All I mean is that, if people continue to 
kill one another as they do, the world cannot get better than it is, 
and that, since there are more people than formerly, and their 
means for destroying one another superior, the world may well 
get worse. What is good in people — and consequently in the 
world — is their insistence on creation, their belief in friendship 
and loyalty for their own sakes; and, though Violence remains and 
is, indeed, the major partner in this muddled establishment, I 
believe that creativeness remains too, and will always assume di- 
rection when violence sleeps. So, though I am not an optimist, I 
cannot agree with Sophocles that it were better never to have 
been born. And although, like Horace, I see no evidence that 
each batch of births is superior to the last, I leave the field open 
for the more complacent view. This is such a difficult moment to 
live in, one cannot help getting gloomy and also a bit rattled, and 
perhaps short-sighted. 

In search of a refuge, we may perhaps turn to hero-worship. 
But here we shall get no help, in my opinion. Hero-worship is a 
dangerous vice, and one of the minor merits of a democracy is 
that it docs not encouriige it, or produce that unmanageabk type 
of citizen known as the Great Man. It produces instead different 
kinds of small men — a much finer achievement. But people who 

69 



WHAT 1 BELIEVE 


cannot get interested in the variety of life, and cannot make up 
their own minds, get discontented over this, and they long for a 
hero to bow down before and to follow blindly. It is significant 
that a hero is an integral part of the authoritarian stock-in-trade 
today. An efficiency-regime cannot be run without a few heroes 
stuck about it to carry off the dullness — much as plums have to 
be put into a bad pudding to make it palatable. One hero at the 
top and a smaller one each side of him is a favourite arrangement, 
and the timid and the bored are comforted by the trinity, and, 

r wing down, feel exalted and strengthened. 

No, I distrust Great Men. They produce a desert of uniformity 
ound them and often a pool of blood too, jand I always feel a 
little man’s pleasure when they come a cropper. Every now and 
then one reads in the newspapers some such statement as: “The 
coup d'^itat appears to have failed, and Admiral Toma’s where- 
abouts is at present unknown.” Admiral Toma had probably 
every qualification for being a Great Man — an iron will, personal 
magnetism, dash, flair, sexlessncss — but fate was against him, so 
he retires to unknown whereabouts instead of parading history 
with his peers. He fails with a completeness which no artist and 
no lover can experience, because with them the process of crea- 
tion is itself an achievement, whereas with him the only possible 
achievement is success. 

^ I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and 
if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon 
rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensi tive, the con- 1 
siderate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all 
nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret 
understanding between them when they meet. They represent 
the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer 
race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in 
obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others 
as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being 
fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and 
they can take a jo^. I give no examples — it is risky to do that — 
but the reader may as well consider whether this is the type of 
person he would like to meet and to be, and whether (going 
further with me) he would prefer that this type should not be an 
ascetic one. I am against asceticism myself. I am with the old 
Scotsman who wanted less chastity and more delicacy, I do not 
feel that my aristocrats are a real aristocracy if they thwart their 
bodies, since bodies are the instruments through which we 

70 



WHAT I BELIEVE 


register and enjoy the world. Still, I do not insist. This is not a 
major point. It is clearly possible to be sensitive, considerate and 
plucky and yet be an ascetic too, and if anyone possesses the first 
three qualities I will let him in ! On they go — an invincible army, 
yet not a victorious one. The aristocrats, the elect, the chosen, 
the Best People — all the words that describe them arc false, and 
all attempts to organize them fail. Again and again Authority, 
seeing their value, has tried to net them and to utilize them as the 
Egyptian Priesthood or the Christian Church or the Chinese 
Civil Service or the Group Movement, or some other worthy 
stunt. But they slip through the net and gone; when the door 
is shut, they are no longer in the room jf their temple, as one of 
them remarked, is theyholiness of the Heart’s affections, and their i 
kingdom, though they never possess it, is the wide-open world^ / 

With this type of person knocking about, and constantly cros- 
sing one’s path if one has eyes to see or hands to feel, the experi- 
ment of earthly life cannot be dismissed as a failure. But it may 
well be hailed as a tragedy, the tragedy being that no device has 
been found by which these private decencies can be transmitted 
to public affairs. As soon as people have power they go crooked 
and sometimes dotty as well, because the possession of 
lifts them into a region where normal honesty never pays. For 
instance, the man who is selling newspapers outside the Houses 
of Parliament can safely leave his papers to go for a drink, and 
his cap beside them: anyone who takes a paper is sure to drop a 
copper into the cap. But the men who are inside the Houses of 
Parliament — they cannot trust one another like that, still less can 
the Government they compose trust other governments. VNo 
caps upon the pavement here, but suspicion, treachery and 
armaments. The more highly public life is organized the lower^ 
does its morality sink;rthe nations of today behave to each other 
worse than they ever aid in the past, they cheat, rob, bully and 
bluff, make war without notice, and kill as many women and 
children as possible; whereas primitive tribes were at all events 
restrained by taboos\ It is a humiliating outlook — though the 
greater the darkness, me brighter shine the little lights, reassuring 
one another, signalling: “Well, at all events, I’m still here. I 
don’t like it very much, but how are you ? ” Unquenchable lights 
of my aristocracy ! Signals of the invincible army ! “ Come along 
— anyway, let’s have a good time while we can.” I think they 
signal that too. 

The Saviour of the future — ^if ever he comes — ^will not preach 



WHAT I BELIEVE 


a new Cjk)speL He will merely utilize my aristocracy, he will make 
effcctiyc the goodwill and the good temper which arc already 
existing In other words, he will introduce a new technique, (tn 
econo^cs, we are told that if there was a new technique of 
distrioution there need be no poverty, and people would not 
starve in one place while crops were being ploughed under inV 
another^ A similar change is needed in the sphere of morals and 
politics. The desire for it is by no means new; it was expressed, 
for example, in theological terms by Jacopone da Todi over six 
hundred years ago. “Ordena questo amorc, tu che m’ami,*’ 
he said; “O thou who lovest me — set this love in order.’’ His 
prayer was not granted, and I do not myself believe that it ever 
will be, but here, and not through a change of heart, is our 
probable route. Not by becoming better, but by ordering and 
distributing his native gbodhess, will' Man shut up Force into its 
box, and so gain time to explore the universe and to set his mark 
upon it worthily. At present he only explores it at odd moments, 
when Force is looking the other way, and his divine creativeness 
appears as a trivial by-product, to be scrapped as soon as the 
drums beat and the bombers hum. 

Such a change, claim the orthodox, can only be made by 
Christianity, and will be made by it in God’s good time: man 
always has failed and always will fail to organize his own good- 
ness, and it is presumptuous of him to try. This claim — solemn 
as it is — leaves me cold.^ I cannot believe that Christianity will 
ever cope with the present world-wide mess, and I think that such 
influence as it retains in modern society is due to the money 
behind it, rather than to its spiritual appeal. \It was a spiritual 
force once, but the indwelling spirit will haVc to be restated if 
it is to calm the waters again, and probably restated in a non- 
Christian form. Naturally a lot of people, and people who are 
not only good but able and intelligent, will disagree here; they 
will vehemently deny that Christianity has failed, or they will 
argue that its failure proceeds from the wickedness of men, and 
really proves its ultil^ate success. They have Faith, with a large 
F. My faith has a very small one, and I only intrude it because 
these are strenuous and serious days, and one likes to say what 
one thinks while speech is comparatively free; it may not be free 
much longer. 

. The above are the reflections of an individualist and a liberal 
who has found li^^{]^lj|§j^ c^ and at flm felt 

ashamed. Then, looking around, he ^ecided'tHere was no special 

72 



WHAT I BELIEVE 


reason for shame, since other people, whatever they felt, were 
equally insecure. And as for individualism— there seems no way 
of getting off this, even if one wanted to. The dictator-hero can 
grind down his^oEzimsTnrtliey are all’alike, but he cannot melt 
them into a single man. That is beyond his power. He can order 
them to merge, he can incite them to mass-antics, but they are 
obliged to be born separately, and to die separately, and, owing 
to these unavoidable termini, will always be running off the 
totalitarian rails. (The memory of birth and the expectation of 
death always lurk within the human being, making him separate 
from his fellows and consequently capable of intercourse with 
thenf^ Naked I came into the world, naked I shall go out of it ! 
And a very good thing too, for it reminds me that I am naked 
under my shirt, whatever its colour. 

[1938] 


73 




Art in General 




Anonymity: An Enquiry 


Do you like to know who a book’s by ? 

The question is more profound than may appear. A poem, 
for example: do we gain more or less pleasure from it when we 
know the name of the poet? The “Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens”, 
for example. No one knows who wrote “Sir Patrick Spens”. It 
comes to us out of the northern void like a breath of ice. Set 
beside it another ballad whose author is known — “The Rime of 
the Ancient Mariner”. That, too, contains a tragic voyage and 
the breath of ice, but it is signed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and 
we know a certain amount about this Coleridge. Coleridge signed 
other poems and knew other poets; he ran away from Cam- 
bridge; he enlisted as a dragoon under the name of Trooper 
Comberbache, but fell so constantly from his horse that it had to 
be withdrawn from beneath him permanently; he was employed 
instead upon matters relating to sanitation ; he married Southey’s 
sister, and gave lectures; he became stout, pious and dishonest, 
took opium and died. With such information in our heads, we 
speak of “The Ancient Mariner” as “a poem by Coleridge”, but 
of “Sir Patrick Spens” as “a poem”. What difference, if any, 
does this difference between them make upon our minds ? And in 
the case of novels and plays — does ignorance or knowledge of 
their authorship signify? And newspaper articles — do they 
impress more when they are signed or unsigned? Thus — rather 
vaguely — let us begin our quest. 

Books arc composed of words, and words have two functions 
to perform: they give information or they create an atmosphere. 
Often they do both, for the two functions are not incompatible, 
but our enquiry shall keep them distinct. Let us turn for our 
next example to public notices. There is a word that is sometimes 
hung up at the edge of a tramline : the word “ Stop Written on 
a metal label by the side of the line, it means that a tram should 
stop here presently. It is an example of pure information. It 
creates no atmosphere — at least, not in my mind. I stand* close 
to the label and wait and wait for the tram. If the tram comes, the 
information is correct; if it doesn’t come, the information is in- 


77 



ART IN GENERAL 


correct; but in either case it remains information, and the notice 
is an excellent instance of one of the uses of words. 

Compare it with another public notice which is sometimes 
exhibited in the darker bities of England : “Beware of pickpockets, 
male and female.” Here, again, there is information. A pick- 
pocket may come along presently, just like a tram, and we take 
our measures accordingly. But there is something else besides. 
Atmosphere is created. Who can sec those words without a slight 
sinking feeling at the heart ? All the people around look so honest 
and nice, but they are not, some of them are pickpockets, male or 
female. They hustle old gentlemen, the old gentleman glances 
down, his watch is gone. They steal up behind an old lady and 
cut out the back breadth of her beautiful sealskin jacket with 
sharp and noiseless pairs of scissors. Observe that happy little 
child running to buy sweets. Why does he suddenly burst into 
tears ? A pickpocket, male or female, has jerked his halfpenny out 
of his hand. All this, and perhaps much more, occurs to us 
when we read the notice in question. We suspect our fellows of 
dishonesty, we observe them suspecting us. We have been 
reminded of several disquieting truths, of the general insecurity of 
life, human frailty, the violence of the poor, and the fatuous 
trustfulness of the rich, who always expect to be popular without 
having done anything to deserve it. It is a sort of memento mori, 
set up in the midst of Vanity Fair. By taking the form of a warn- 
ing it has made us afraid, although nothing is gained by fear; all 
we need to do is to protect our precious purses, and fear will not 
help us to do this. Besides conveying information it has created 
an atmosphere, and to that extent is literature. “Beware of pick- 
pockets, male and female” is not good literature, and it is un- 
conscious. But the words are performing two functions, whereas 
the word “Stop” only performed one, and this is an important 
difference, and the first step in our journey. 

Next step. Let us now collect together all the printed matter 
of the world into a single heap: poetry books, exercise books, 
plays, newspapers, advertisements, street notices, everything. Let 
us arrange the contents of the heap into a line, with the works 
that convey pure information at one end, and the works that 
create pure atmosphere at the other end, and the works that do 
both in their intermediate positions, the whole line being graded 
so that we pass from one attitude to another. We shall find that 
at the end of pure information stands the tramway notice “ Stop ”, 
and that at the extreme other end is lyric poetry. Lyric poetry is 

78 



anonymity: an enquiry 

absolutely no use. It is the exact antithesis of a street notice, for it 
conveys no information of any kind. What’s the use of “A 
slumber did my spirit seal” or “Whether on Ida’s shady brow” 
or “So, we’ll go no more a roving” or “Far in a western brook- 
land”? They do not tell us where the tram will stop or even 
whether it exists. And, passing from lyric poetry to ballad, we are 
still deprived of information. It is true that “The Ancient 
Mariner” describes an Antarctic expedition, but in such a 
muddled way that it is no real help to the explorer, the accounts 
of the polar currents and winds being hopelessly inaccurate. It 
is true that the “Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens” refers to the bring- 
ing home of the Maid of Norway in the year 1285, but the refe- 
rence is so vague and confused that the historians turn from it in 
despair. Lyric poetry is absolutely no use, and poetry generally is 
almost no use. 

But when, proceeding down the line, we leave poetry behind 
and arrive at the drama, and particularly at those plays that 
purport to contain normal human beings, we find a change. 
Uselessness still predominates, but we begin to get information 
as well. Julius Caesar contains some reliable information about 
Rome. And when we pass from the drama to the novel the 
change is still more marked. Information abounds. What a lot 
we learn from Tom Jones about the west countryside ! And from 
JVorthanger Abbey about the same countryside fifty years later ! In 
psychology too the novelist teaches us much. How carefully has 
Henry James explored certain selected recesses of the human 
mind ! What an analysis of a country rectory in The Way of All 
Flesh\ The instincts of Emily Bronte — they illuminate passion. 
And Proust — how amazingly does Proust describe not only 
French society, not only the working of his characters, but the 
personal equipment of the reader, so that one keeps stopping with 
a gasp to say, “ Oh ! how did he find that out about me ? I didn’t 
even know it myself until he informed me, but it is so!” The 
novel, whatever else it may be, is partly a noticeboard. And that 
is why many men who do not care for poetry or even for the 
drama enjoy novels and arc well qualified to criticize them. 

Beyond the novel we come to works whose avowed aim is 
information, works of learning, history, sociology, philosophy, 
psychology, science, etc. Uselessness is now subsidiary, though 
it still may persist as it does in the Decline and Fall or The Stones 
of Venice, And next come those works that give, or profess to give, 
us information about contemporary events: the newspapers. 


79 



ART IN GENERAL 


(Newspapers are so important and so peculiar that I shall return 
to them later, but mention them here in their place in the pro- 
cession of printed matter.) And then come advertisements, time- 
tables, the price list inside a taxi, and public notices: the notice 
warning us against pickpockets, which incidentally produced an 
atmosphere though its aim was information, and the pure 
information contained in the announcement “Stop”. It is a 
long journey from lyric poetry to a placard beside a tramline, 
but it is a journey in which there are no breaks. Words are all of 
one family, and do not become different because some are printed 
in a book and others on a metal disc. It is their functions that dif- 
ferentiate them. They have two functions, and the combination 
of those functions is infinite. If there is on earth a house with 
many mansions, it is the house of words. 

Looking at this line of printed matter, let us again ask our- 
selves : Do I want to know who wrote that ? Ought it to be signed 
or not? The question is becoming more interesting. Clearly, in 
so far as words convey information, they ought to be signed. 
Information is supposed to be true. That is its only reason for 
existing, and the man who gives it ought to sign his name, so that 
he may be called to account if he has told a lie. When I have 
waited for several hours beneath the notice “Stop”, I have the 
right to suggest that it be taken down, and I cannot do this 
unless I know who put it up. Make your statement, sign your 
name. That’s common sense. But as we approach the other 
function of words — the creation of atmosphere — the question of 
signature surely loses its importance. It does not matter who 
wrote “A slumber did my spirit steal”, because the poem itself 
docs not matter. Ascribe it to Ella Wheeler Wilcox and the trams 
will run as usual. It does not matter much who wrote Julius 
Caesar dJid Tom Jones. They contain descriptions of ancient Rome 
and eighteenth-century England, and to that extent we wish them 
signed, for we can judge from the author’s name whether the 
description is likely to be reliable; but beyond that the guarantee 
of Shakespeare or Fielding might just as well be Charles Garvicc’s. 
So we come to the conclusion, firstly, that what is information 
ought to be signed; and, secondly, that what is not information 
need not be signed. 

The question can now be carried a step further. 

What is this clement in words that is not information? I 
have called it “atmosphere”, but it requires stricter definition 
than that. It resides not in any particular word, but in the order 

8o 



anonymity: an enquiry 

in which words are arranged — that is to say, in style. It is the 
power that words have to raise our emotions or quicken our 
blood. It is also something else, and to define that other thing 
would be to explain the secret of the universe. This “something 
else” in words is undefinable. It is their power to create not only 
atmosphere, but a world, which, while it lasts, seems more real 
and solid than this daily existence of pickpockets and trams. 
Before we begin to read “The Ancient Mariner” we know that 
the Polar Seas are not inhabited by spirits, and that if a man 
shoots an albatross he is not a criminal but a sportsman, and that 
if he stuffs the albatross afterwards he becomes a naturalist also. 
All this is common knowledge. But when we are reading “The 
Ancient Mariner”, or remembering it intensely, common know- 
ledge disappears and uncommon knowledge takes its place. We 
have entered a universe that only answers to its own laws, sup- 
ports itself, internally coheres, and has a new standard of truth. 
Information is true if it is accurate. A poem is true if it hangs 
together. Information points to something else. A poem points 
to nothing but itself. Information is relative. A poem is absolute. 
The world created by words exists neither in space nor time 
though it has semblances of both, it is eternal and indestructible, 
and yet its action is no stronger than a flower; it is adamant, yet 
it is also what one of its practitioners thought it to be, namely 
the shadow of a shadow. We can best define it by negations. It 
is not this world, its laws are not the laws of science or logic, its 
conclusions not those of common sense. And it causes us to sus- 
pend our ordinary judgements. 

Now comes the crucial point. While we are reading “The 
Ancient Mariner” we forget our astronomy and geography and 
daily ethics. Do we not also forget the author ? Does not Samuel 
Taylor Coleridge, lecturer, opium-eater and dragoon, disappear 
with the rest of the world of information ? We remember him 
before we begin the poem and after we finish it, but during the 
poem nothing exists but the poem. Consequently while we read 
“The Ancient Mariner” a change takes place in it. It becomes 
anonymous, like the “Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens”. And here is 
the point I would support: that all literature tends towards a 
condition of anonymity, and that, so far as words are creative, a 
signature merely distracts us from their true significance. I do 
not say literature “ought” not to be signed, because literature is 
alive, and consequently “ought” is the wrong word to use. It 
wants not to be signed. That puts my point. It is always tugging 

8i 



ART IN GENERAL 


in that direction and saying in effect; “I, not my author, exist 
really. ** So do the trees, flowers and human beings say, “ I really 
exist, not God,” and continue to say so despite the admonitions 
to the contrary addressed to them by clergymen and scientists. 
To forget its Creator is one of the functions of a Creation. To 
remember him is to forget the days of one’s youth. Literature 
does not want to remember. It is alive — not in a vague comple- 
mentary sense — but alive tenaciously, and it is always covering up 
the tracks that connect it with the laboratory. 

It may here be objected that literature expresses personality, 
that it is the result of the author’s individual outlook, that we are 
right in asking for his name. It is his property — he ought to have 
the credit. 

An important objection; also a modern one, for in the past 
neither writers nor readers attached the high importance to per- 
sonality that they do today. It did not trouble Homer or the vari- 
ous people who were Homer. It did not trouble the writers in the 
Greek Anthology, who would write and rewrite the same poem in 
almost identical language, their notion being that the poem, not 
the poet, is the important thing, and that by continuous rehand- 
ling the perfect expression natural to the poem may be attained. 
It did not trouble the medieval balladists, who, like the cathedral- 
builders, left their works unsigned. It troubled neither the com- 
posers nor the translators of the Bible. The Book of Genesis today 
contains at least three different elements — Jahvist, Elohist and 
Priestly — which were combined into a single account by a com- 
mittee who lived under King Josiah at Jerusalem and translated 
into English by another committee who lived under King James I 
at London. And yet the Book of Genesis is literature. These 
earlier writers and readers knew that the words a man writes 
express him, but they did not make a cult of expression as we do 
today. Surely they were right, and modern critics go too far in 
their insistence on personality. 

They go too far because they do not reflect what personality is. 
Just as words have two functions — information and creation — so 
each human mind has two personalities, one on the surface, one 
deeper down. The upper personality has a name. It is called 
S. T. Coleridge, or William Shakespeare, or Mrs Humphry Ward. 
It is conscious and alert, it does things like dining out, answering 
letters, etc., and it differs vividly and amusingly from other 
personalities. The lower personality is a very queer affair. In 
many ways it is a perfect fool, but without it there is no literature, 

82 



anonymity: an enquiry 

because unless a man dips a bucket down into it occasionally he 
cannot produce first-class work. There is something general ateut 
it. Although it is inside S. T. Coleridge, it cannot be labelled 
with his name. It has something in common with all other 
deeper personalities, and the mystic will assert that the common 
quality is God, and that here, in the obscure recesses of our being, 
we near the gates of the Divine. It is in any case the force that 
makes for anonymity. As it came from the depths, so it soars to 
the heights, out of local questionings; as it is general to all men, 
so the works it inspires have something general about them, 
namely beauty. The poet wrote the poem, no doubt, but he 
forgot himself while he wrote it, and we forget him while we read. 
What is so wonderful about great literature is that it transforms 
the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote, 
and brings to birth in us also the creative impulse. Lost in the 
beauty where he was lost, we find more than we ever threw away, 
we reach what seems to be our spiritual home, and remember 
that it was not the speaker who was in the beginning but the 
Word. 

If we glance at one or two writers who are not first-class this 
point will be illustrated. Charles Lamb and R. L. Stevenson 
will serve. Here are two gifted, sensitive, fanciful, tolerant, 
humorous fellows, but they always write with their surface- 
personalities and never let down buckets into their underworld. 
Lamb did not try: bbbbuckets, he would have said, are bbeyond 
me, and he is the pleasanter writer in consequence. Stevenson 
was always trying oh ever so hard, but the bucket cither stuck or 
else came up again full of the R.L.S. who let it down, full of the 
mannerisms, the self-consciousness, the sentimentality, the 
quaintness which he was hoping to avoid. He and Lamb append 
their names in full to every sentence they write. They pursue us 
page after page, always to the exclusion of higher joy. They arc 
letter-writers, not creative artists, and it is no coincidence that 
each of them did write charming letters. A letter comes off the 
surface: it deals with the events of the day or with plans: it is 
naturally signed. Literature tries to be imsigncd. And the proof 
is that, whereas we are always exclaiming “How like Lamb!*’ or 
“How typical of Stevenson!” we never say “How like Shake- 
speare ! ” or “ How typical of Dante ! ” We are conscious only of 
the world they have created, and we arc in a sense co-partifcrs in 
it. Coleridge, in his smaller domain, makes us co-partners too. 
We forget for ten minutes his name and our own, and I contend 

83 


D 



ART IN GENERAL 


that this temporary forgetfulness, this momentary and mutual 
anonymity, is sure evidence of good stuff. The demand that 
literature should express personality is far too insistent in these 
days, and I look back with longing to the earlier modes of criticism 
where a poem was not an expression but a discovery, and was 
sometimes supposed to have been shown to the poet by God. 

The personality of a writer does become important after we 
have read his book and begin to study it. When the glamour of 
creation ceases, when the leaves of the divine tree are silent, when 
the co-partnership is over, then a book changes its nature, and we 
can ask ourselves questions about it such as “What is the author’s 
name?”, “Where did he live?”, “Was he married?” and 
“Which was his favourite flower?” Then we are no longer read- 
ing the book, we are studying it and making it subserve our desire 
for information. “Study” has a very solemn sound. “I am 
studying Dante” sounds much more than “ I am reading Dante”. 
It is really much less. Study is only a serious form of gossip. It 
teaches us everything about the book except the central thing, 
and between that and us it raises a circular barrier which only 
the wings of the spirit can cross. The study of science, history, 
etc., is necessary and proper, for they are subjects that belong to 
the domain of information, but a creative subject like literature — 
to study that is excessively dangerous, and should never be 
attempted by the immature. Modern education promotes the 
unmitigated study of literature and concentrates our attention on 
the relation between a writer’s life — his surface life — and his work. 
That is one reason why it is such a curse. There are no questions 
to be asked about literature while we read it because “la paix 
succ^dc k la pensie”, in the words of Paul Claudel. An examina- 
tion paper could not be set on “The Ancient Mariner” as it 
speaks to the heart of the reader, and it was to speak to the heart 
that it was written, and otherwise it would not have been written. 
Questions only occur when we cease to realize what it was about 
and become inquisitive and methodical. 

A word in conclusion on the newspapers — for they raise an 
interesting contributory issue. We have already defined a news- 
paper as something which conveys, or is supposed to convey, 
information about passing events. It is true, not to itself like a 
poem, but to the facts it purports to relate — like the tram notice. 
When the morning paper arrives it lies upon the breakfast table 
simply steaming with truth in regard to something else. Truth, 
truth, and nothing but truth. Unsated by the banquet, we sally 

84 



anonymity: an enquiry 

forth in the afternoon to buy an evening paper, which is published 
at midday as the name implies, and feast anew. At the end 
of the week we buy a weekly, or a Sunday paper, which as the 
name implies has been written on the Saturday, and at the end of 
the month we buy a monthly. Thus do we keep in touch with the 
world of events as practical men should. 

And who is keeping us in touch ? Who gives us this information 
upon which our judgements depend, and which must ultimately 
influence our characters? Curious to relate, we seldom know. 
Newspapers are for the most part anonymous. Statements are 
made and no signature appended. Suppose we read in a paper 
that the Emperor of Guatemala is dead. Our first feeling is one 
of mild consternation; out of snobbery we regret what has hap- 
pened, although the Emperor didn’t play much part in our 
lives, and if ladies we say to one another, “I feel so sorry for the 
poor Empress. ” But presently we learn that the Emperor cannot 
have died, because Guatemala is a Republic, and the Empress 
cannot be a widow, because she docs not exist. If the statement 
was signed, and we know the name of the goose who made it, 
we shall discount anything he tells us in the future. If — which is 
more probable — it is unsigned or signed “Our Special Corres- 
pondent”, we remain defenceless against future misstatements. 
The Guatemala lad may be turned on to write about the Fall of 
the Franc and mislead us over that. 

It seems paradoxical that an article should impress us more if 
it is unsigned than if it is signed. But it does, owing to the weak- 
ness of our psychology. Anonymous statements have, as we have 
seen, a universal air about them. Absolute truth, the collected 
wisdom of the universe, seems to be speaking, not the feeble voice 
of a man. The modern newspaper has taken advantage of this. 
It is a pernicious caricature of literature. It has usurped that 
divine tendency towards anonymity. It has claimed for informa- 
tion what only belongs to creation. And it will claim it as long as 
we allow it to claim it, and to exploit the defects of our psycho- 
logy. “ The High Mission of the Press. ” Poor Press ! As if it were 
in a position to have a mission ! It is we who have a mission to it. 
To cure a man through the newspapers or through propaganda of 
any sort is impossible; you merely alter the symptoms of his 
disease. We shall only be cured by purging our minds of confu- 
sion. The papers trick us not so much by their lies as by* their 
exploitation of our weakness. They are always confusing the two 
functions of words and insinuating that “The Emperor of 

85 



ART IN GENERAL 


Guatemala is dead’* and “A slumber did my spirit seal” belong 
to the same category. They arc always usurping the privileges 
that only uselessness may claim, and they will do this as long as 
we allow them to do it. 

This ends our enquiry. The question “Ought things to be 
signed?” seemed, if not an easy question, at all events an isolated 
one, but we could not answer it without considering what words 
arc, and disentangling the two functions they perform. We 
decided pretty easily that information ought to be signed; com- 
mon sense leads to this conclusion, and newspapers which arc 
largely unsigned have gained by that device their undesirable 
influence over civilization. Creation — that we found a more 
difficult matter. “ Literature wants not to be signed, ” I suggested. 
Creation comes from the depths — the mystic will say from God. 
The signature, the name, belongs to the surface-personality, and 
pertains to the world of information, it is a ticket, not the spirit 
of life. While the author wrote he forgot his name; while we 
read him we forget both his name and our own. When we have 
finished reading we begin to ask questions, and to study the book 
and the author, we drag them into the realm of information. 
Now we learn a thousand things, but we have lost the pearl of 
great price, and in the chatter of question and answer, in the tor- 
rents of gossip and examination papers, we forget the purpose for 
which creation was performed. I am not asking for reverence. 
Reverence is fatal to literature. My plea is for something more 
vital: imagination. “Imagination is as the immortal God which 
should assume flesh for the redemption of mortal passion” (Shel- 
ley). Imagination is our only guide into the world created by 
words. Whether those words are signed or unsigned becomes, as 
soon as the imagination redeems us, a matter of no importance, 
because we have approximated to the state in which they were 
written, and there are no names down there, no personality as 
we understand personality, no marrying or giving in marriage. 
What there is down there — ah, that is another enquiry, and may 
the clergymen and the scientists pursue it more successfully in 
the future than they have in the past. 

[1935] 


86 



Art for Art’s Sake 

An address delivered before the American 
Academy and the National Institute of 
Arts and Letters in New York 

I believe in art for art’s sake. It is an unfashionable belief, and 
some of my statements must be of the nature of an apology. 
Sixty years ago I should have faced you with more confidence. A 
writer or a speaker who chose “Art for Art’s Sake” for his theme 
sixty years ago could be sure of being in the swim, and could feel 
so confident of success that he sometimes dressed himself in 
aesthetic costumes suitable to the occasion — in an embroidered 
dressing-gown, perhaps, or a blue velvet suit with a Lord Fauntle- 
roy collar; or a toga, or a kimono, and carried a poppy or a lily or 
a long peacock’s feather in his medieval hand. Times have 
changed. Not thus can I present either myself or my theme 
today. My aim rather is to ask you quietly to reconsider for a 
few minutes a phrase which has been much misused and much 
abused, but which has, I believe, great importance for us — has, 
indeed, eternal importance. 

Now we can easily dismiss those peacock’s feathers and other 
affectations — they are but trifles — but I want also to dismiss a 
more dangerous heresy, namely the silly idea that only art mat- 
ters, an idea which has somehow got mixed up with the idea of art 
for art’s sake, and has helped to discredit it. Many things, besides 
art, matter. It is merely one of the things that matter, and, high 
though the claims are that I make for it, I want to keep them in 
proportion. No one can spend his or her life entirely in the 
creation or the appreciation of masterpieces. Man lives, and 
ought to live, in a complex world, full of conflicting claims, and 
if we simplified them down into the aesthetic he would be 
sterilized. Art for art’s sake does not mean that only art matters, 
and I would also like to rule out such phrases as “The Life of 
Art”, “Living for Art” and “Art’s High Mission”. They con- 
fuse and mislead. 

What docs the phrase mean? Instead of generalizing, let us 
take a specific instance — Shakespeare’s Macbethy for example, and 
pronounce the words, Macbeth for Macbeth^s sake”. What* does 
that mean ? Well, the play has several aspects — it is educational, 
it teaches us something about legendary Scotland, something 

87 



ART IN GENERAL 


about Jacobean England, and a good deal about human nature 
and its perils. We can study its origins, and study and enjoy 
its dramatic technique and the music of its diction. All that is 
true. But Macbeth is furthermore a world of its own, created by 
Shakespeare and existing in virtue of its own poetry. It is in 
this aspect Macbeth for Macbeth^s sake, and that is what I intend by 
the phrase “art for art’s sake”. A work of art — whatever else it 
may be — is a self-contained entity, with a life of its own imposed 
on it by its creator. It has internal order. It may have external 
form. That is how we recognize it. 

Take for another example that picture of Seurat’s which I saw 
two years ago in Chicago — La Grande Jatte. Here again there is 
much to study and to enjoy: the pointillism, the charming face 
of the seated girl, the nineteenth-century Parisian Sunday sun- 
light, the sense of motion in immobility. But here again there is 
something more; La Grande Jatte forms a world of its own, 
created by Seurat and existing by virtue of its own poetry : La 
Grande Jatte pour La Grande Jatte: Vart pour Vart. Like Macbeth it 
has internal order and internal life. 

It is to the conception of order that I would now turn. This is 
important to my argument, and I want to make a digression, and 
glance at order in daily life, before I come to order in art. 

In the world of daily life, the world which we perforce inhabit, 
there is much talk about order, particularly from statesmen and 
politicians. They tend, however, to confuse order with orders, 
just as they confuse creation with regulations. Order, I suggest, 
is something evolved from within, not something imposed from 
without; it is an internal stability, a vital harmony, and in the 
social and political category it has never existed except for the 
convenience of historians. Viewed realistically, the past is really 
a scries of rftiorders, succeeding one another by discoverable laws, 
no doubt, and certainly marked by an increasing growth of 
human interference, but disorders all the same. So that, speaking 
as a writer, what I hope for today is a disorder which will be 
more favourable to artists than is the present one, and which will 
provide them with fuller inspirations and better material con- 
ditions. It will not last — nothing lasts — but there have been 
some advantageous disorders in the past — for instance, in ancient 
Athens, in Renaissance Italy, eighteenth-century France, periods 
in China and Persia — and we may do something to accelerate the 
next one. But let us not again fix our hearts where true joys are 
not to be found. We were promised a new order after the First 

88 



ART FOR ART'S SAKE 


World War through the League of Nations. It did not come, nor 
have I faith in present promises, by whomsoever endorsed. The 
implacable offensive of Science forbids. We cannot reach social 
and political stability, for the reason that we continue to make 
scientific discoveries and to apply them, and thus to destroy the 
arrangements which were based on more elementary discoveries. 
If Science would discover rather than apply — if, in other words, 
men were more interested in knowledge than in power — mankind 
would be in a far safer position, the stability statesmen talk about 
would be a possibility, there could be a new order based on vital 
harmony, and the earthly millennium might approach. But 
Science shows no signs of doing this: she gave us the internal 
combustion engine, and before we had digested and assimilated 
it with terrible pains into our social system she harnessed the 
atom, and destroyed any new order that seemed to be evolving. 
How can man get into harmony with his surroundings when he 
is constantly altering them? The future of our race is, in this 
direction, more unpleasant than we care to admit, and it has 
sometimes seemed to me that its best chance lies through apathy, 
uninventiveness and inertia. Universal exhaustion might pro- 
mote that Change of Heart which is at present so briskly recom- 
mended from a thousand pulpits. Universal exhaustion would 
certainly be a new experience. The human race has never 
undergone it, and is still too perky to admit that it may be coming 
and might result in a sprouting of new growth through the decay. 

I must not pursue these speculations any further — they lead 
me too far from my terms of reference and maybe from yours. 
But I do want to emphasize that order in daily life and in history, 
order in the social and political category, is unattainable under 
our present psychology. 

Where is it attainable? Not in the astronomical category, 
where it was for many years enthroned. The heavens and the 
earth have become terribly alike since Einstein. No longer can 
we find a reassuring contrast to chaos in the night sky and look 
up with George Meredith to the stars, the army of unalterable 
law, or listen for the music of the spheres. Order is not there. In' 
the entire universe there seem to be only two possibilities for it. 
The first of them — ^which again lies outside my terms of reference 
— is the divine order, the mystic harmony, which according to all 
religions is available for those who can contemplate it. We*must 
admit its possibility, on the evidence of the adepts, and we must 
believe them when they say that it is attained, if attainable, by 

89 



ART IN GENERAL 


prayer. “O Thou, who changest not, abide with me,” said one 
of its poets. “Ordena questo amore, tu che m’ami,” said 
another: “ Set love in order, thou who loves t me. ” The existence 
of a divine order, thbugh it cannot be tested, has never been 
disproved. 

The second possibility for order lies in the aesthetic category, 
which is my subject here: the order which an artist can create in 
his own work, and to that we must now return. A work of art, 
we are all agreed, is a unique product. But why? It is unique 
not because it is clever or noble or beautiful or enlightened or 
original or sincere or idealistic or useful or educational — it may 
embody any of those qualities — but because it is the only material 
object in the universe which may possess internal harmony. All 
the others have been pressed into shape from outside, and when 
their mould is removed they collapse. The work of art stands up 
by itself, and nothing else does. It achieves something which has 
often been promised by society, but always delusively. Ancient 
Athens made a mess — but the Antigone stands up. Renaissance 
Rome made a mess — but the ceiling of the Sistine got painted. 
James I made a mess — but there was Macbeth. Louis XIV — but 
there was Phkdre. Art for art’s sake ? I should just think so, and 
more so than ever at the present time. It is the one orderly 
product which our muddling race has produced. It is the cry of a 
thousand sentinels, the echo from a thousand labyrinths; it is the 
lighthouse which cannot be hidden; c^est le meilleur timoignage que 
nous puissions donner de noire digniti. Antigone for Antigone^^ sake, 
Macbeth for Macbeth% La Grande Jatte pour La Grande Jatte. 

If this line of argument is correct, it follows that the artist will 
tend to be an outsider in the society to which he has been bom, 
and that the nineteenth-century conception of him as a bohemian 
was not inaccurate. The conception erred in three particulars: 
it postulated an economic system where art could be a full-time 
job, it introduced the fallacy that only art matters, and it over- 
stressed idiosyncrasy and waywardness — the peacock-feather 
aspect — rather than order. But it is a truer conception than the 
one which prevails in official circles on my side of the Atlantic — 
I don’t know about yours: the conception which treats the artist 
as if he were a particularly bright government advertiser and 
encourages him to be friendly and matey with his fellow citizens, 
and not to give himself airs. 

Estimable is mateyness, and the man who achieves it gives 
many a pleasant little drink to himself and to others. But it has 


90 



ART FOR art’s SAKE 


no traceable connection with the creative impulse, and probably 
acts as an inhibition on it. The artist who is seduced by matey- 
ness may stop himself from doing the one thing which he, and he 
alone, can do— the making of something out of words or sounds or 
paint or clay or marble or steel or film which has internal har- 
mony and presents order to a permanently disarranged planet. 
This seems to be worth doing, even at the risk of being called 
uppish by journalists. I have in mind an article which was pub- 
lished some years ago in the London Times ^ an article called “The 
Eclipse of the Highbrow”, in which the “Average Man” was 
exalted, and all contemporary literature was censured if it did not 
toe the line, the precise position of the line being naturally known 
to the writer of the article. Sir Kenneth Clark, who was at that 
time director of our National Gallery, commented on this 
pernicious doctrine in a letter which cannot be too often quoted. 
“The poet and the artist,” wrote Clark, “are important precisely 
because they are not average men; because in sensibility, intel- 
ligence, and power of invention they far exceed the average.” 
These memorable words, and particularly the words “power of 
invention”, are the bohemian’s passport. Furnished witfi it, he 
slinks about society, saluted now by a brickbat and now by a 
penny, and accepting cither of them with equanimity. He does 
not consider too anxiously what his relations with society may be, 
for he is aware of something more important than that — namely 
the invitation to invent, to create order, and he believes he will 
be better placed for doing this if he attempts detachment. So 
round and round he slouches, with his hat pulled over his eyes, 
and maybe with a louse in his beard, and — if he really wants one — 
with a peacock’s feather in his hand. 

If our present society should disintegrate — and who dare 
prophesy that it won’t? — this old-fashioned and d6mod6 figure 
will become clearer: the bohemian, the outsider, the parasite, 
the rat — one of those figures which have at present no function 
either in a warring or a peaceful world. It may not be dignified 
to be a rat, but many of the ships arc sinking, which is not digni- 
fied cither — the officials did not build them properly. Myself, I 
would sooner be a swimming rat than a sinking ship — at all 
events I can look around me for a little longer — and I remember 
how one of us, a rat with particularly bright eyes called Shelley, 
squeaked out, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators df the 
world,” before he vanished into the waters of the Mediterranean. 

What laws did Shelley propose to pass ? None. The legislation 



ART IN GENERAL 


of the artist is never formulated at the time, though it is some- 
times discerned by future generations. He legislates through 
creating. And he creates through his sensitiveness and his power 
to impose form. Without form the sensitiveness vanishes. And 
form is as important today, when the human race is trying to 
ride the whirlwind, as it ever was in those less agitating days of the 
past, when the earth seemed solid and the stars fixed, and the dis- 
coveries of science were made slowly, slowly. Form is not tradi- 
tion. It alters from generation to generation. Artists always 
seek a new technique, and will continue to do so as long as their 
work excites them. But form of some kind is imperative. It is the 
surface crust of the internal harmony, it is the outward evidence of 
order. 

My remarks about society may have seemed too pessimistic, 
but I believe that society can only represent a fragment of the 
human spirit, and that another fragment can only get expressed 
through art. And I wanted to take this opportunity, this vantage- 
ground, to assert not only the existence of art, but its pertinacity. 
Looking back into the past, it seems to me that that is all there 
has ever been: vantage-grounds for discussion and creation, little 
vantage-grounds in the changing chaos, where bubbles have been 
blown and webs spun, and the desire to create order has found 
temporary gratification, and the sentinels have managed to utter 
their challenges, and the huntsmen, though lost individually, have 
heard each other’s calls through the impenetrable wood, and the 
lighthouses have never ceased sweeping the thankless seas. In this 
pertinacity there seems to me, as I grow older, something more 
and more profound, something which docs in fact concern people 
who do not care about art at all. 

In conclusion, let me summarize the various categories that 
have laid claim to the possession of order. 

(1) The social and political category. Claim disallowed on 
the evidence of history and of our own experience. If man 
altered psychologically, order here might be attainable; not 
otherwise. 

(2) The astronomical category. Claim allowed up to the 
present century, but now disallowed on the evidence of the 
physicists. 

(3) The religious category. Claim allowed on the evidence of 
the mystics. 

(4) The aesthetic category. Claim allowed on the evidence 
of various works of art, and on the evidence of our own creative 


92 



ART FOR art’s SAKE 


impulses, however weak these may be, or however imperfectly 
they may function. Works of art, in my opinion, arc the only 
objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that 
is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe 
in Art for Art’s Sake. 

[1949] 


93 



The Duty of Society 
to the Artist 


A great deal has been said about the duty of the artist to society. 
It is argued that the poet, the novelist, the painter, the musician, 
has a duty to the community; he is a citizen like everyone else; 
he must pull his weight, he must not give himself airs, or ask for 
special terms, he must pay his taxes honourably, and keep the 
laws which have been made for the general good. That is the 
argument and it is a reasonable one. But there is another side: 
what is the duty of society to the artist ? Society certainly has a 
duty to its members ; it has a duty to the engineer who serves it 
loyally and competently : it must provide him with the necessary 
tools and not allow him to starve; it has a duty to the stock- 
broker who is a competent dealer in stocks : since he is part of a 
financial system which it has accepted, it must support him and 
ensure him his due percentage. This is obvious enough. So what 
is its duty to the artist ? If he contributes loyally and competently, 
ought not society to reward him like any other professional man ? 

Unfortunately the matter is not so simple. Art is a profession; 
that is quite true. The novelist or the musician has to learn his 
job just as the engineer or stockbroker has to learn his, and he 
too has to make both ends meet and needs to be paid or other- 
wise supported. But it’s such a queer job. I will come back to it 
in a moment. I want first to consider society, the society we may 
expect to have after this war. We may expect a society that is 
highly centralized. It may be organized for peace; we hope it 
will. It may have to be organized against future wars, and if so, 
so much the worse. But in either case it will be very tightly knit; 
it will be planned; and it will be bureaucratic. Bureaucracy, in a 
technical age like ours, is inevitable. The advance of science 
means the growth of bureaucracy and the reign of the expert. 

^ And, as a result, society and the State will be the same thing. 

This has never happened in the past. Society used to be much 
more diffuse. The government was there, making laws and wars, 
but it could not interfere so much with the individual; it had not 
the means. When I was a boy there was no wireless, no motor- 
cars; at an earlier date there were no telegrams, no railways; 

94 



THE DUTY OF SOCIETY TO THE ARTIST 

earlier still, no posts. You cannot interfere with people unless you 
can communicate with them easily. Society was diffuse, and in 
the midst of the diffusion the artist flourished. If he was a 
painter he painted for the king and the courtiers, who probably 
had some individual ideas about painting, or for the great aristo- 
crats, or for the local squire, or for the Church, which was not an 
individual but which knew what it wanted as regards subject- 
matter. He lived in a society which was broken up into groups 
and he had the chance of picking the group which suited him. 
That society, after lasting for thousands of years, has suddenly 
hardened and become centralized, and in the future the only 
effective patron will be the State. The State is in a position to 
commission pictures, statues, symphonies, novels, epics, films, 
hot jazz — anything. It has the money, and it commands the 
available talent. It can and it will encourage the efficient 
engineer or stockbroker or butcher. What encouragement will 
it give to an artist ? 

I am going to imagine an interview between an artist — a 
painter of genius, I will suppose — and the appropriate state offi- 
cial, whom I will call Mr Bumble. The artist says, “ I want to 
paint the new police station; can I have the job?** Mr Bumble is 
not interested in painting and he has no reason to suppose that 
the police care for it either ; still, he does his duty, he looks up his 
instructions, and sees that though police stations are usually left 
plain there is no regulation against their being coloured. “Yes, 
that would certainly be in order,” he says. “Fm instructed to 
encourage art and I could give you the job, and I note you have 
suitable credentials. What sort of picture do you propose to 
paint?” 

“I shall see when I start,” replies the artist airily. 

“See when you start? Is not that a little vague? I suppose 
that anyhow you will paint something which is edifying and 
inspiring? — a figure of Justice, for instance.** 

“I can’t promise to do that. Indeed I don’t feel inclined to 
edify or inspire. No doubt this State of ours is admirable, no 
doubt our police are a fine body of men — but no: I don’t want to 
paint anything instructive. ” 

“Well, well,” says Mr Bumble, and thinks how much easier 
it is to deal with a stockbroker. “Well, you know about art 
and I don’t, but I always assumed that art existed to make*men 
into better citizens.” 

“ It does sometimes do that, ” replies the artist, “ but not always. 


95 



ART IN GENERAL 


and I don’t feel inclined to paint that type of picture just now. 
Sorry,” 

Mr Bumble, who is a thoroughly decent fellow, is sorry too, 
and then he has a good idea. 

” Still, there’s light art, isn’t there, ” he says heavily, “ art which 
amuses and entertains. Provided the requirements of propriety 
are observed, there’s no objection whatever to your painting 
something popular. ” 

“Yes, art does sometimes entertain,” replies the artist. “But 
not always. And I don’t feel inclined to paint that type of picture 
either.” 

“May I ask what you do want to do?” 

“ I want to experiment. ” 

“Experiment? The walls of the new police station are no 
place for experiments.” 

“I want to experiment. I want to extend human sensitiveness 
through paint. That’s all that interests me. Perhaps, when I’ve 
finished, the picture will instruct and inspire people. Perhaps it 
will amuse them. I don’t know and I don’t really care. I want 
to paint something which will be understood when this society of 
ours is forgotten and the police station a ruin.” 

“The new police station a ruin when it has just cost thousands 
of pounds? How preposterous!” 

“Yes, a ruin in the desert like Palmyra and Angkor or Zim* 
babwe, a ruin like Borobudur or Ajanta; which are remembered 
today not for their original purposes, but because of the experi- 
ments, the discoveries made by artists upon their walls. A ruin 
like . . .” 

But here Mr Bumble holds up his hand. His patience is 
exhausted, he really cannot waste more time over this flibberti- 
gibbet. 

“I can do nothing for you,” he says. “You don’t fit in. And 
if you won’t fit into the State how can you expect to be employed 
by the State?” 

The artist retorts: “ I know I don’t fit in. And it’s part of my 
duty not to fit in. It’s part of my duty to humanity, I feel things, 
I express things, that haven’t yet been felt and expressed, 
and that is my justification. And I ask the State to employ 
me on trust and pay me without understanding what I am 
up to.” 

There my dialogue ends. Mr Bumble refuses to give the com- 
mission, for it is a pretty tall order to be asked to pay for some- 

96 



THE DUTY OF SOCIETY TO THE ARTIST 


thing which you do not understand ; he who pays the piper natu- 
rally hopes to call the tune. 

I have made that conversation up in order to emphasize the 
fundamental difficulty which confronts the modern centralized 
State when it tries to encourage art. The State believes in educa- 
tion. But does art educate? “Sometimes, but not always” is the 
answer; an unsatisfactory one. The State believes in recreation. 
But does art amuse? “ Sometimes, but not always” is the answer 
again. The State does not believe in experiments, in the develop- 
ment of human sensitiveness in directions away from the average 
citizen. The artist does^ and consequently he and the State — who 
will soon be his sole employer — must disagree. 

So that is why there is a problem in the case of the artist which 
does not arise in the case of the butcher or the engineer. He 
never quite fits in. This did not matter in the loosely organized 
societies of the past, but it will matter in the future, where the 
community will be the only employer, and there is a danger and 
indeed a probability that art will disappear. 

Perhaps I shall make this clearer if I quote from another dia- 
logue, written by Plato. Plato, all through his life, was interested 
in the relation between the artist and the State, and was worried 
because the artist never quite fits in. He had himself the artistic 
temperament. In one of his earlier dialogues, the PhaedruSy he 
calls poetry 

a madness . . . the madness of those who are possessed of the 
Muses; which enters into a delicate mind, and there inspires 
frenzy. . . . But he who, having no touch of the Muses’ mad- 
ness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks he will get into 
the temple — he, I say, and his poems are not admitted; the 
sane man is nowhere at all when he enters into competition 
with a madman. 

The sane man, whom Mr Bumble represents, is certainly not 
inclined to subsidize madness: the State exists for the sane who 
have learned to fit in. Plato himself realized this, and in his later 
life he became enthusiastic about the State, and was obliged to 
change his attitude towards poetry and art. Personally he loved 
them as much as ever, but he saw they were disruptive, and he 
ended by banishing poets from the ideal community, op the 
ground that they upset people and that you never know what 
they will say next. He came round to Mr Bumble’s view. 

Not sharing Plato’s totalitarianism, I believe that Mr Bumble 

97 



ART IN GENERAL 


ought to have given that commission. I see his difficulties. How, 
in the first place, was he to know that the applicant was not a 
fraud? (He would have to rely on some advisory body here.) 
And in the second place, even if he felt convinced that the artist 
was genuine as artists go, how should he feel justified in wasting 
public money on someone so useless? (The answer here is that 
he must be educated, educated not so much to appreciate art as 
to respect it. Our officials, when they take up their posts, ought 
to be instructed in soothing words that there is something in this 
queer art business which they cannot understand and must try 
not to resent.) 

By the way, Pve assumed above that we shall have a stable 
future after the war. If the future were chaotic, the artist would 
become a bohemian and an outsider, and the whole problem 
would alter. 

[1942] 


98 



Does Culture Matter? 


/ 

Culture is a forbidding word. I have to use it, knowing of none 
better, to describe the various beautiful and interesting objects 
which men have made in the past, and handed down to us, and 
which some of us are hoping to hand on. Many people despise 
them. They argue with force that cultural stuff takes up a great 
deal of room and time, and had better be scrapped, and they 
argue with less force that we live in a new world which has been 
wiped clean by science and cannot profit by tradition. Science ' 
will wipe us clean constantly, they hope, and at decreasing inter- 
vals. Broadcasting and the cinema have wiped out the drama, 
and quite soon we may hope for some new invention which will 
wipe out the cinema industry and Broadcasting House. In this 
constant scrubbing, what place can there be for the Branden- 
burg Concertos, or for solitary readings of Dante, or for the 
mosaics of Santa Sophia, or for photographs of them? We shall 
all rush forward doing our work and amusing ourselves during 
the recreation hour with whatever gives least bother. 

This prospect seems to me so awful that I want to do what I 
can against it, without too much attempt at fair-mindedness. It 
is impossible to be fair-minded when one has faith — religious 
creeds have shown this — and I have so much faith in cultural 
stuff that I believe it must mean something to other people, and 
anyhow want it left lying about. Faith makes one unkind: I 
am pleased when culture scores a neat hit. For instance. Sir 
Richard Terry, the organist of Westminster Cathedral, once 
made a remark which gave me unholy joy: speaking to some 
young musicians at Blackpool, he told them that they could be 
either men or crooners when they grew up, but not both. A 
storm in a cocktail resulted. The bands of Mr Jack Payne and 
Mr Henry Hall fizzed to their depths, and the less prudent 
members in them accorded interviews to the press. One crooner 
said that he and his friends could knock down Sir Richard and 
his friends any day, so they must be men. Another crooner said 
that he and his friends made more money than Sir Richard’s 
friends, so they must be musicians. The pretentiousness and 

99 



ART IN GENERAL 


conceit of these amusement-mongers came out very strikingly. 
They appeared to be living in an eternal thi dansant which they 
mistook for the universe, and they couldn’t bear being teased. 
For my own part, I don’t mind an occasional croon or a blast 
in passing from a Wurlitzer organ, and Sir Richard Terry’s 
speciality, madrigals, bore me; nevertheless, the music repre- 
sented by him and his peers is the real thing; it ought to be 
defended and it has the right occasionally to attack. As a rule, 
it is in retreat, for there is a hostility to cultural stuff today which 
is disquieting. 

Of course, most people never have cared for the classics, in 
music or elsewhere, but up to now they have been indifferent 
or ribald, and good-tempered, and have not bothered to de- 
nounce. “Not my sort, bit tame,” or “Sounds like the cat being 
sick, miaou pussy,’’ or “Coo, he must have felt bad to paint 
them apples blue” — these were their typical reactions when con- 
fronted with Racine, Stravinsky, Cizanne. There was no to-do — 
just “Not my sort”. But now the good humour is vanishing, the 
guffaw is organized into a sneer, and the typical reaction is 
“How dare these so-called art-chaps do it? /’// give them some- 
thing to do.” This hostility has been well analysed by Mrs 
Leavis, in her study of the English novel. She shows that, though 
fiction of the best-seller type has been turned out for the last two 
hundred years, it has only lately realized its power, and that 
the popular novelist of today tends to be venomous and aggres- 
sive towards his more artistic brethren — an attitude in which he 
is supported by most of the press, and by the cheap libraries. 
Her attitude leads to priggishness; but it is better to be superior 
than to kow-tow. There was once a curious incident, which 
occupied several inches on a prominent page of The Times, A 
popular comedian had been faded out on the air, and the B.B.C., 
generally so stiff-necked, were grovelling low in apology, and 
going into all kinds of detail in extenuation of their grave offence. 
When they had done, the comedian’s comment was printed; he 
professed himself appeased and consented to broadcast in the 
future. I wonder how much fuss a poet or a philosopher would 
have made if his talk had been cut short, and how many inches 
of regret he would have been given. 

Incidents like this, so trivial in themselves, suggest that the past, 
and the creations that derive from the past, are losing their 
honour and on their way to being jettisoned. We have, in this 
age of unrest, to ferry much old stuff across the river, and the 


loo 



DOES CULTURE MATTER? 


old Stuff is not merely books, pictures and music, but the power 
to enjoy and understand them. If the power is lost the books, 
etc., will sink down into museums and die, or only survive in 
some fantastic caricature. The power was acquired through 
tradition. Sinclair Lewis, in Babbitt, describes a civilization which 
had no tradition and could consequently only work, or amuse 
itself with rubbish ; it had heard of the past, but lacked the power 
to enjoy it or understand. There is a grim moment at a medium- 
istic stance, when Dante is invoked. The company knew of 
Dante as the guy who got singed, so he duly appears in this 
capacity and returns to his gridiron after a little banter, with a 
pleased smirk. He has become a proper comic. And it would 
seem that he is having a similar if less extreme experience in 
Soviet Russia. He has been ferried across there, but he is con- 
demned as a sadist; that is to say, the power to understand him 
has been left behind. Certainly Dante wrote over the gates of 
Hell that they were made by the power, wisdom and love of 
God: 


Fecemi la divina Potestate, 

La somma Sapienza c il primo Amore, 

and neither the Middle West nor the Soviets nor ourselves can 
be expected to agree with that. But there is no reason why we 
should not understand it, and stretch our minds against his, 
although they have a different shape. The past is often uncon- 
genial as far as its statements are concerned, but the trained 
imagination can surmount them and reach the essential. Dante 
seems to me a test case. If people are giving him up it is a sign 
that they arc throwing culture overboard, owing to the rough- 
ness of the water, and will reach the further bank sans Dante, 
sans Shakespeare and sans everything. 

Life on that further bank, as I conceive it, is by no means a 
nightmare. There will be work for all and play for all. But the 
work and the play will be split; the work will be mechanical and 
the play frivolous. If you drop tradition and culture you lose 
your chance of connecting work and play and creating a life 
which is all of a piece. The past did not succeed in doing that, 
but it can help us to do it, and that is why it is so useful. Crooners, 
best-sellers, electrical-organists, funny-faces, drcam-girlj and 
mickey-mice cannot do it — they throw the weight all to one side 
and increase the split. They arc all right when they don’t take 
themselves seriously. But when they begin to talk big and claim 

lOI 



ART IN GENERAL 


the front row of the dress circle, and even get to it, something is 
wrong. Life on that further bank might not be a nightmare, 
but some of us would prefer the sleep that has no dreams. 

Cultivated people are a drop of ink in the ocean. They mix 
easily and even genially with other drops, for those exclusive 
days are over when cultivated people made only cultivated friends, 
and became tongue-tied or terror-struck in the presence of anyone 
whose make-up was different from their own. Culture, thank 
goodness, is no longer a social asset, it can no longer be employed 
cither as a barrier against the mob or as a ladder into the aristo- 
cracy. This is one of the few improvements that have occurred 
in England since the last war. The change has been excellently 
shown in Mrs Woolf’s biography of Roger Fry; here we can 
trace the decay of smartness and fashion as factors, and the 
growth of the idea of enjoyment. 

All the same, we are a drop in the ocean. Few people share 
our enjoyment so far. Strictly between ourselves, and keeping 
our limited circulation in mind, let us put our heads together 
and consider for a moment our special problem, our special 
blessings, our special woes. No one need listen to us who does 
not want to. We whisper in the corner of a world which is full 
of other noises, and louder ones. 

Come closer. Our problem, as I see it, is this : is what we have 
got worth passing on ? What we have got is (roughly speaking) 
a little knowledge about books, pictures, tunes, runes, and a little 
skill in their interpretation. Seated beside our gas fires, and 
beneath our electric bulbs, we inherit a tradition which has lasted 
for about three thousand years. The tradition was partly popu- 
lar, but mainly dependent upon aristocratic patronage. In the 
past, culture has been paid for by the ruling classes; they often 
did not know why they paid, but they paid, much as they went 
to church; it was the proper thing to do, it was a form of social 
snobbery, and so the artists sneaked a meal, the author got a 
sinecure, and the work of creation went on. Today, people are 
coming to the top who arc, in some ways, more clear-sighted 
and honest than the ruling classes of the past, and they refuse to 
pay for what they don’t want; judging by the noises through the 
floor, our neighbour in the flat above doesn’t want books, pic- 
tures, tunes, runes, anyhow doesn’t want the sorts which we 
recommend. Ought we to bother him? When he is hurrying 



DOES CULTURE MATTER? 


to lead his own life, ought we to get in his way like a maiden 
aunt, our arms, as it were, full of parcels, and say to him: “I 
was given these specially to hand on to you . . . Sophocles, 
Velasquez, Henry James. . . . Pm afraid they’re a little heavy, 
but you’ll get to love them in time, and if you don’t take them 
off my hands I don’t know who will . . . please . . . please . . . 
they’re really important, they’re culture.” 

His reply is unlikely to be favourable, but, snubbing or no 
snubbing, what ought we to do? That’s our problem, that’s 
what we are whispering about, while he and his friends argue 
and argue and argue over the trade-price of batteries, or the 
quickest way to get from Balham to Ealing. He doesn’t really 
want the stuff. That clamour for art and literature which Ruskin 
and Morris thought they detected has died down. He won’t 
take the parcel unless wc do some ingenious touting. He is an 
average modern. People today are either indifferent to the 
aesthetic products of the past (that is the position both of the 
industrial magnate and of the trade unionist) or else (the Com- 
munist position) they are suspicious of them, and decline to 
receive them until they have been disinfected in Moscow. In 
England, still the abode of private enterprise, indifference pre- 
dominates. I know a few working-class people who enjoy cul- 
ture, but as a rule I am afraid to bore them with it lest I lose 
the pleasure of their acquaintance. So what is to be done ? 

It is tempting to do nothing. Don’t recommend culture. 
Assume that the future will have none, or will work out some 
form of it which wc cannot expect to understand. Auntie had 
better keep her parcels for herself, in fact, and stop fidgeting. 
This attitude is dignified, and it further commends itself to me 
because I can reconcile it with respect for the people arguing 
upstairs. Who am I that I should worry them? Out-of-date 
myself, I like out-of-date things, and am willing to pass out of 
focus in that company, inheritor of a mode of life which is wanted 
no more. Do you agree? Without bitterness, let us sit upon 
the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings, ourselves 
the last of their hangers-on. Drink the wine — no one wants it, 
though it came from the vineyards of Greece, the gardens of 
Persia. Break the glass — no one admires it, no one cares any 
more about quality or form. Without bitterness and without 
conceit take your leave. Time happens to have tripped you up, 
and this is a matter neither for shame nor for pride. 

The difficulty here is that the higher pleasures arc not really 

103 



ART IN GENERAL 


wines or glasses at all. They rather resemble religion, and it is 
impossible to enjoy them without trying to hand them on. The 
appreciator of an aesthetic achievement becomes in his minor 
way an artist; he cannot rest without communicating what has 
been communicated to him. This “passing on” impulse takes 
various forms, some of them merely educational, others merely 
critical ; but it is essentially a glow derived from the central fire, 
and to extinguish it is to forbid the spread of the Gospel. It is 
therefore impossible to sit alone with one’s books and prints, 
or to sit only with friends like oneself, and never to testify out- 
side. Dogmatism is of course a mistake, and even tolerance and 
tact have too much of the missionary spirit to work satisfactorily. 
What is needed in the cultural Grospel is to let one’s light so shine 
that men’s curiosity is aroused, and they ask why Sophocles, 
Velasquez, Henry James should cause such disproportionate 
pleasure. Bring out the enjoyment. If “the classics” are adver- 
tised as something dolorous and astringent, no one will sample 
them. But if the cultured person, like the late Roger Fry, is 
obviously having a good time, those who come across him will 
be tempted to share it and to find out how. 

That seems to be as far as we can get with our problem, as we 
whisper together in our unobtrusive flat, while our neighbours, 
who possess voices more powerful than our own, argue about 
Balham and Ealing over our heads. Remember, by the way, 
that we are not creative artists. The creative artist might take 
another line. He would certainly have more urgent duties. 
Our chief job is to enjoy ourselves and not to lose heart, and to 
spread culture not because we love our fellow men, but because 
certain things seem to us unique and priceless, and, as it were, 
push us out into the world on their service. It is a Gospel, and 
not altogether a benign one; it is the zest to communicate what 
has been communicated. Works of art do have this peculiar 
pushful quality; the excitement that attended their creation 
hangs about them, and makes minor artists out of those who have 
felt their power, 

[1935; 1940] 


104 



The Raison d^&tre of 
Criticism 

An address delivered at a 

Symposium on Music at Harvard University 


Believing as I do that music is the deepest of the arts and deep 
beneath the arts, I venture to emphasize music in this brief survey 
of the raison d'ttre of criticism. I have no authority here. I am 
an amateur whose inadequacy will become all too obvious as he 
proceeds. Perhaps, though, it may be remembered in charity 
that the word amateur implies love. I love music. Just to love 
it, or just to love anything or anybody, is not enough. Love has 
to be clarified and controlled to give full value, and here is 
where criticism may help. But one has to start with love; one 
has, in the case of music, to want to hear the notes. If one has 
no initial desire to listen and no sympathy after listening, the 
notes will signify nothing, sound and fury, whatever their intel- 
lectual content. 

The case against criticism is alarmingly strong, and much of 
my survey is bound to be a brief drawn up by the Devil’s Advo- 
cate, I will postpone the evil day, and begin by indicating the 
case for criticism. 

Most of us will agree, I think, that previous training is desir- 
able before we approach the arts. We mistrust untrained ap- 
preciation, believing that it often defeats its own ends. Apprecia- 
tion ought to be enough. But, unless we learn by example and 
by failure and by comparison, appreciation will not bite. We 
shall tend to slip about on the surface of masterpieces, exclaiming 
with joy, but never penetrating. “Oh, I do like Bach,” cries one 
appreciator, and the other cries, “Do you? I don’t. I like 
Chopin.” Exit in opposite directions chanting Bach and Chopin 
respectively, and hearing less the composers than their own 
voices. They resemble investors who proclaim the soundness of 
their financial assets. The Bach shares must not fall, the CKopin 
not fall further, or one would have been proved a fool on the 
aesthetic stock exchange. The objection to untrained apprecia* 

105 



ART IN GENERAL 


tion is not its naiVet6 but its tendency to lead to the appreciation 
of no one but oneself. Against such fatuity the critical spirit is 
a valuable corrective. 

Except at the actual moment of contact — and I shall have much 
to say on the subject of that difficult moment — it is desirable to 
know why we like a work, and to be able to defend our prefer- 
ences by argument. Our judgement has been strengthened and 
if all goes well the contacts will be intensified and increased and 
become more valuable. 

I add the proviso “if all goes well” because success lies on the 
knees of an unknown god. There is always the contrary danger: 
the danger that training may sterilize the sensitiveness that is 
being trained; that education may lead to knowledge instead of 
wisdom, and criticism to nothing but criticism ; that spontaneous 
enjoyment, like the Progress of Poesy in Matthew Arnold’s poem, 
may be checked because too much care has been taken to direct 
it into the right channel. Still, it is a risk to be faced, and if no 
care had been taken the stream might have vanished even 
sooner. We hope criticism will help. We have faith in it as a 
respectable human activity, as an item in the larger heritage which 
differentiates us from the beasts. 

How best can this activity be employed ? One must allow it 
to construct aesthetic theories, though to the irreverent eyes of 
some of us they appear as travelling laboratories, beds of Pro- 
crustes whereon Milton is too long and Keats too short. In an 
age which is respectful to theory — as for instance the seventeenth 
century was respectful to Aristotle’s theory of the dramatic unities 
— a theory may be helpful and stimulating, particularly to the 
sense of form. French tragedy could culminate in Racine be- 
cause certain leading-strings had been so willingly accepted that 
they were scarcely felt. Corneille and Tasso were less happy. 
Corneille, having produced the Ctrf, wasted much time trying to 
justify its deviations from Aristotle’s rules; and Tasso wasted 
even more, for he published his theory of Christian Epic Poetry 
before he wrote the Gerusalmme Liberata which was to illustrate 
it. His epic was attacked by the critics because it deviated firom 
what Aristotle said and also from what Tasso thought he might 
have said. Tasso was upset, became involved in three volumes 
of controversy which not even Professor Saintsbury has read, 
tried to write a second epic which should not deviate, failed, 
and went mad. Except in Russia, where the deviations of 
Shostakovich invite a parallel, a theory in the modem world 

io6 



THE RAISON D’ETRE OF CRITICISM 

has little power over the fine arts, for good or evil. We have no 
atmosphere where it can flourish, and the attempts of certain 
governments to generate such an atmosphere in bureaus arc 
unlikely to succeed. The construction of aesthetic theories and 
their comparison arc desirable cultural exercises; the theories 
themselves arc unlikely to spread far or to hinder or help. 

A more practical activity for criticism is the sensitive dissection 
of particular works of art. What did the artist hope to do? 
What means did he employ, subconscious or conscious? Did 
he succeed, and if his success was partial where did he fail? 
In such a dissection the tools should break as soon as they en- 
counter any living tissue. The apparatus is nothing, the specimen 
all. Whether expert critics will agree with so extreme a state- 
ment is doubtful, but I do enjoy following particular examina- 
tions so far as an amateur can. It is delightful and profitable to 
enter into technicalities to the limit of one’s poor ability, to con- 
tinue as far as one can in the wake of an expert mind, to pursue 
an argument till it passes out of one’s grasp. And to have, while 
this is going on, a particular work of art before one can be a 
great help. Besides learning about the work one increases one’s 
powers. Criticism’s central job seems to be education through 
precision. 

A third activity, less important, remains to be listed, and since 
it lies more within my sphere than precision I will discuss it at 
greater length. Criticism can stimulate. Few of us are suffi- 
ciently awake to the beauty and wonder of the world, and when 
art intervenes to reveal them it sometimes acts in reverse, and 
lowers a veil instead of raising one. This deadening effect can 
often be dispersed by a well-chosen word. We can be awakened 
by a remark which need not be profound or even true, and can 
be sent scurrying after the beauties and wonders we were ignor- 
ing. Journalism and broadcasting have their big opportunity 
here. Unsuited for synthesis or analysis, they can send 
out the winged word that carries us off to examine the 
original. 

There is in fact a type of criticism which has no interpretative 
value, yet it should not be condemned offhand. Much has been 
written about music, for instance, which has nothing to do with 
music and must make musicians smile. It usually describes the 
state into which the hearer was thrown as he sat on his chair 
at the concert, and the visual images which occurred to him in 
that sedentary position. Here is an example, and a very lovely 

107 



ART IN GENERAL 


one, from Walt Whitman. Whitman has heard “one of Beet- 
hoven’s master septets” performed at Philadelphia (there is only 
one Beethoven septet, but this the old boy did not know), and 
the rendering of it on a* “small band of well-chosen and perfectly 
combined instruments” quite carries him away. 

Dainty abandon, sometimes as if Nature laughing on a hill- 
side in the sunshine ; serious and firm monotonies, as of winds ; 
a horn sounding through the tangle of the forest, and the dying 
echoes ; soothing floating of waves, but presently rising in surges, 
angrily lashing, muttering, heavy; piercing peals of laughter, 
for interstices; now and then weird, as Nature herself is in 
certain moods — but mainly spontaneous, easy, careless — often 
the sentiment of the postures of naked children playing or 
sleeping. It did me good even to watch the violinists drawing their 
bows so masterly — every motion a study. I allow’d myself, as 
I sometimes do, to wander out of myself. The conceit came to 
me of a copious grove of singing birds, and in their midst a 
simple harmonic duo, two human souls, steadily asserting their 
own pensiveness, joyousness. 

Here is adorable literature, but what has it to do with Op. 20 ? 
A poet’s imagination has been kindled. He has allowed himself 
to wander out of himself, but not into Beethoven’s self, his 
presumable goal. He has evoked the visual images congenial to 
him, and though in the closing phrase there is a concert it is not 
the one he attended, for it took place in the Garden of Eden. 

Another example of such criticism is to be found in Proust. 
Proust is what Walt Whitman is not — sophisticated, soigni^ rusi^ 
maladif. But he too listens to a septet and reacts to it visually, 
he is carried off his seat into a region which has nothing to do 
with the concert. It is the septet of Vinteuil, whom we have 
hitherto known as the composer of a violin sonata. Vinteuil 
himself, an obscure and unhappy provincial organist, has scarcely 
appeared ; but his sonata, and particularly a phrase in it, la petite 
phrase, has been an actor in the long-drawn inaction of the novel. 
Character after character has listened to it, and has felt hope, 
jealousy, despair, peace, according to the circumstances into which 
la petite phrase has entered. We do not know what it sounds like, 
but its arrival always means emotional heightening. 

Towards the end of the novel, the hero goes to a musical 
reception in Paris where a new work is to be performed. He 
does not bother to look at the programme, being occupied by 
social trifles. It is a septet — the opening bars arc sombre, glacial, 

108 



THE RAISON d’&TRE OF CRITiaSM 


as if dawn had not yet risen over the sea. He finds himself in an 
unknown world, where he understands nothing. Suddenly into 
this bewilderment there falls — la petite phrase^ a reference to the 
sonata. He is listening to a posthumous work of Vintcuil, of 
whose existence he was unaware. Everything falls into shape. 
It is as if he has walked in an unknown region and come across 
the little gate which belongs to the garden of a friend. The 
septet expands its immensities, now comprehensible. The dawn 
rises crimson out of the sea, harsh midday rejoicings give way to 
more images, and the little phrase of the sonata, once virginal 
and shy, is august, quivering with colours, final, mature. 

Now these visual wanderings are not entirely to my taste. 
Whitman’s has its own naive merit, but in the case of Proust, 
who is pretentious culturally, we feel uneasy. Shall we then say 
that they do not and cannot help us musically at all ? I think 
this is too severe. The septets of Beethoven and of Vinteuil have 
come no nearer to us, but we have been excited, we have been 
disposed to listen to sounds, we have been challenged to test 
the descriptions and to decide whether we agree with them. 
This general sharpening of interest is desirable. It can be 
effected in various ways: by a legitimate critic like Donald 
Tovey, by a grand old boy at Philadelphia, or by a snobby 
Frenchman in the Faubourg St Germain. Not all ways are 
equally good. Those who hear music will always interpret it 
best. But those who don’t hear it after the first few notes 
have also their use. Their wanderings, their visual images, their 
dreams, help to sharpen us. They recall us to the importance 
of sounds, and, their inferior in other ways, we may perhaps 
manage to listen to the sounds longer than they did. 

Examples of higher musical value are to be found in the early 
journalism of Bernard Shaw. Though Shaw is a man of letters, 
like Whitman and Proust, and readily runs after his own thoughts 
and pictorial images, he does manage to remember the music. 
He can interpret as well as stimulate. He can say for instance 
of Haydn: ** Haydn would have been among the greatest had 
he been driven to that terrible eminence; but we are fortunate 
enough in having had at least one man of genius who was happy 
enough in the Valley of Humiliation to feel no compulsion to 
struggle on through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.” What 
a sensitive and just reflection 1 How admirably it expresses that 
turning away from the tragic so often displayed by Haydn — ^for 
instance in the opening of the C Major Symphony, Op. 97 1 He 

109 



ART IN GENERAL 


has turned to gaiety not because he is afraid of tragedy, which 
would discompose the listener, but because he prefers not to be 
tragic. This is an essential in Haydn, and, apprehending it, 
Shaw convinces us that he is inside music and could have criti- 
cized it more deeply, had his career and his inclinations allowed. 

I like, in this connection, jokes about music, the irresponsible 
folly which sometimes kicks a door open as it flics. They too 
may incline us to listen to sounds. When our English humorist, 
Beachcomber, says “Wagner is the Puccini of music,’’ he says 
rather more than he says. Besides guying a well-worn formula, 
he pierces Grand Opera itself, and reveals Briinnhilde and Butter- 
fly transfixed on the same mischievous pin. I like, too, the 
remark of an uncle of mine, a huntin’, fishin’, shootin’, sportin’ 
sort of uncle, whose aversion to the arts was very genuine. 
“They tell me,” he said one day thoughtfully, “they tell me 
music’s like a gun: it hurts less when you let it off yourself.” 
Besides getting in a well-directed gibe, and discomposing my 
aunt, who adored Mendelssohn, he indicated very neatly the gulf 
between artist on the one hand and critic on the other. Those 
who arc involved and those who appraise arc never hurt in the 
same way. This is, as a matter of fact, going to be our chief 
problem here, and perhaps it will come the fresher because my 
uncle hit at it in his slapdash fashion before striding back to his 
dogs. 


For now our trouble starts. We can readily agree that criticism 
has educational and cultural value; the critic helps to civilize 
the community, builds up standards, forms theories, stimulates, 
dissects, encourages the individual to enjoy the world into which 
he has been born; and on the destructive side he exposes fraud 
and pretentiousness and checks conceit. These are substantial 
achievements. But I would like if I could to establish the raison 
d'itre of criticism on a higher basis than that of public utility. I 
would like to discover some spiritual parity between it and the 
objects it criticizes, and this is going to be difficult. The diffi- 
culty has been variously expressed. One writer — Mr F. L. Lucas 
— has called criticism a charming parasite; another — Chekhov — 
complains it is a gadfly which hinders the oxen from ploughing; 
a third — the eighteenth-century philosopher Lord Karnes — 
compares it to an imp which distracts critics from thdr objec* 
tive and incites them to criticize each other. My own trouble is 


no 



THE RAISON D’ETRE OF CRITICISM 

not SO much that it is a parasite, a gadfly or an imp, but that 
there is a basic difference between the critical and creative states 
of mind, and to the consideration of that difference I would now 
invite your attention. 

What about the creative state? In it a man is taken out of 
himself. He lets down as it were a bucket into his subconscious, 
and draws up something which is normally beyond his reach. 
He mixes this thing with his normal experiences, and out of the 
mixture he makes a work of art. It may be a good work of art 
or a bad one — ^we are not here examining the question of quality 
— but whether it is good or bad it will have been compounded 
in this unusual way, and he will wonder afterwards how he did 
it. Such seems to be the creative process. It may employ much 
technical ingenuity and worldly knowledge, it may profit by 
critical standards, but mixed up with it is this stuff from the 
bucket, this subconscious stuff, which is not procurable on de- 
mand. And when the process is over, when the picture or 
symphony or lyric or novel (or whatever it is) is complete, the 
artist, looking back on it, will wonder how on earth he did it. 
And indeed he did not do it on earth. 

A perfect example of the creative process is to be found in 
‘‘Kubla Khan*’. Assisted by opium, Coleridge had his famous 
dream, and dipped deep into the subconscious. Waking up, he 
started to transcribe it, and was proceeding successfully when that 
person from Porlock unfortunately called on business. 

Weave a circle round him thrice, 

And close your eyes with holy dread. 

For he on honey-dew hath fed. 

And drunk the milk of Paradise — 

and in came the person from Porlock. Coleridge could not 
resume. His connection with the subconscious had snapped. He 
had created and did not know how he had done it. As Professor 
John Livingston Lowes has shown, many fragments of Coleridge’s 
day-to-day reading are embedded in “Kubla Khan”, but the 
poem itself belongs to another world, which he was seldom to 
record. 

The creative state of mind is akin to a dream. In Coleridge’s 
case it was a dream. In other cases — Jane Austen’s for instance 
— the dream is remote or sedate. But even Jane Austen, looking 
back upon Emma, could have thought; “Dear me, how came I to 
write diat? It is not ill-contrived.” There is always, even with 


111 



ART IN GENERAL 


the most realistic artist, the sense of withdrawzd from his own 
creation, the sense of surprise. 

The French writer, Paul Claudel, gives the best description 
known to me of the creative state. It occurs in La Ville. A poet 
is speaking. He has been asked whence his inspiration comes, 
and how is it that when he speaks evcrytliing becomes explicable 
although he explains nothing. He replies: 

I do not speak what I wish, but I conceive in sleep, 

And I cannot explain whence I draw my breath, for it is 
my breath which is drawn out of me. 

I expand the emptiness within me, I open my mouth, I 
breathe in the air, I breathe it out. 

I restore it in the form of an intelligible word. 

And having spoken I know what I have said. 

There is a further idea in the passage, which my brief English 
paraphrase has not attempted to convey: the idea that if the 
breathing in is inspiration the breathing out is expiration, a pre- 
figuring of death, when the life of a man will be drawn out of 
him by the unknown force for the last time. Creation and death 
are closely connected for Claudel. Fm confining myself, though, 
to his description of the creative act. How precisely it describes 
what happened in “Kubla Khan*’! There is conception in 
sleep, there is the connection between the subconscious and the 
conscious, which has to be effected before the work of art can be 
bom, and there is the surprise of the creator at his own creation. 

Jc restitue une parole intelligible. 

£t, I’ayant dite, je sais ce que j’ai dit. 

Which is exactly what happened to Coleridge. He spoke and 
then knew what he had said, but as soon as inspiration was inter- 
rupted he could not say any more. 

After this glance at the creative state, let us glance at the 
critical. The critical state has many merits, and employs some 
of the highest and subtlest faculties of man. But it is grotesquely 
remote from the state responsible for the works it affects to ex- 
pound. It docs not let down buckets into the subconscious. It 
docs not conceive in sleep, or know what it has said after it has 
said it. Think before you speak is criticism’s motto; speak 
before you think creation’s. Nor is criticism disconcerted by 
people arriving from Porlock; in fact it sometimes comes from 
Porlock itself. While not excluding imagination and sympathy, 


112 



THE RAISON D’iXRE OF CRITICISM 

it keeps them and all the faculties under control, and only employs 
them when they promise to be helpful. 

Thus equipped, it advances on its object. It has two aims. 
The first and the more important is aesthetic. It considers the 
object in itself, as an entity, and tells us what it can about its 
life. The second aim is subsidiary: the relation of the object 
to the rest of the world. Problems of less relevance are considered, 
such as the conditions under which the work of art was composed, 
the influences which formed it (criticism adores influences), the 
influence it has exercised on subsequent works, the artist’s life, 
the lives of the artist’s father and mother, prenatal possibilities 
and so on, straying this way into psychology and that way into 
history. Much of the above is valuable. But if we wheel up an 
aesthetic theory — the best obtainable, and there are some excel- 
lent ones — if we wheel it up and apply it with its measuring rods 
and pliers and forceps, its calipers and catheters, to a particular 
work of art, wc are visited at once, if we arc sensitive, by a sense 
of the grotesque. It doesn’t work, two universes have not even 
collided, they have been juxtaposed. There is no spiritual parity. 
And, if criticism strays from her central aesthetic quest to in- 
fluences and psychological and historical considerations, some- 
thing does happen then, contact is established. But no longer 
with a work of art. 

A work of art is a curious object. Isn’t it infectious? Unlike 
machinery, hasn’t it the power of transforming the person who 
encounters it towards the condition of the person who created 
it? (I use the clumsy phrase “towards the condition” on pur- 
pose.) We — we the beholders or listeners or whatever we are — 
undergo a change analogous to creation. We are rapt into a 
region near to that where the artist worked, and, like him, when 
we return to earth we feel surprised. To claim we actually 
entered his state and became co-creators with him there is pre- 
sumptuous. However much excited I am by Brahms’s Fourth 
Symphony, I cannot suppose I feel Brahms’s excitement, and 
probably what he felt is not what I understand as excitement. 
But there has been an infection from Brahms through his music 
to myself. Something has passed. I have been transformed 
towards his condition, he has called me out of myself, he has 
thrown me into a subsidiary dream; and when the passacs^lia 
is trodden out, and the transformation closed, I too feel 
surprise^ 

Unfortunately thb infection, this sense of cooperation with a 



ART IN GENERAL 


creator, which is the supremely important step in our pilgrimage 
through the fine arts, is the one step over which criticism cannot 
help. She can prepare ^us for it generally, and educate us to keep 
our senses open, but she has to withdraw when reality approaches, 
like Virgil from Dante on the summit of Purgatory. With the 
coming of love, we have to rely on Beatrice, whom we have 
loved all along, and if we have never loved Beatrice we are lost. 
We shall remain pottering about with theories and influences and 
psychological and historical considerations — supports useful in 
their time, but they must be left behind at the entry of Heaven. 
I would not suggest that our comprehension of the fine arts is 
or should be of the nature of a mystic union. But, as in mysticism, 
we enter an unusual state, and we can only enter it through love. 
Putting it more prosaically, we cannot understand music unless 
we desire to hear it. And so we return to the earth. 

Let us reconsider that troublesome object, the work of art, and 
observe another way in which it is recalcitrant to criticism. I 
am thinking of its freshness. So far as it is authentic, it presents 
itself as eternally virgin. It expects always to be heard or read 
or seen for the first time, always to cause surprise. It does not 
expect to be studied, still less does it present itself as a crossword 
puzzle, only to be solved after much re-examination. If it docs 
that, if it parades a mystifying element, it is, to that extent, not 
a work of art, not an immortal Muse, but a Sphinx who dies as 
soon as her riddles are answered. The work of art assumes the 
existence of the perfect recipient, and is indifferent to the fact 
that no such person exists. It does not allow for our ignorance 
and it does not cater for our knowledge. 

This eternal freshness in creation presents a difficulty to the 
critic, who when he hears or reads or secs a work a second time 
rightly profits by what he has heard or read or seen of it the 
first time, and studies and compares, remembers and analyses, 
and often has to reject his original impressions as trivial. He 
may thus in the end gain a just and true opinion of the work, 
but he ought to remain startled, and this is usually beyond him. 
Take Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the one in A. Isn’t it in 
A? The opening bars announce that key as explicitly as fifths 
can, leaving us only in doubt as to whether the movement will 
decide on the major or minor mode. In the fifteenth bar comes 
the terrifying surprise, the pounce into D minor, which tethers 
the music, however far it wanders, right down to the ineluctable 
close. Can one hope to feel that terror and surprise twice? 


114 



THE RAISON d’&TRE OF CRITICISM 


Can one avoid hearing the opening bars as a preparation for the 
pounce — and thus miss the life of the pounce ? Can we combine 
experience and innocence? I think we can. The willing suspen- 
sion of experience is possible, it is possible to become like a 
child who says “Oh!” each time the ball bounces, although 
he has seen it bounce before and knows it must bounce. 

It is possible but it is rare. The critic who is thoroughly versed 
in the score of the Ninth Symphony and can yet hear the opening 
bars as a trembling introduction in A to the unknown has reached 
the highest rank in his profession. Most of us arc content to 
remain well-informed. It is so restful to be well-informed. 
We forget that Beethoven intended his symphony to be heard 
always for the first time. We forget with still greater ease that 
Tchaikovsky intended the same for his Piano Concerto in B flat 
minor. Dubious for good reasons of that thumping affair, we 
sometimes scold it for being “stale” — a ridiculous accusation, for 
it too was created as an eternal virgin, it too should startle each 
time it galumphs down the waltz. No doubt the concerto, and 
much music, has been too often performed, just as some pictures 
have been too often looked at. Freshness of reception is ex- 
hausted more rapidly by a small or imperfect object than by a 
great one. Nevertheless the objects themselves are eternally 
new, it is the recipient who may wither. At the opening of 
Goethe’s Faust, Mcphistopheles, being stale himself, found the 
world stale, and reported it as such to the Almighty. The 
archangels took no notice of him and continued to sing of 
eternal freshness. The critic ought to combine Mcphistopheles 
with the archangels, experience with innocence. He ought to 
know everything inside out, and yet be surprised. Virginia 
Woolf — who was both a creative artist and a great critic — 
believed in reading a book twice. The first time she was an 
archangel: she abandoned herself to the author unreservedly. 
The second time she was Mcphistopheles: she treated him with 
severity and allowed him to get away with nothing he could not 
justify. After these two readings she felt qualified to discuss the book. 
Here is good rule-of-thumb advice. But it does not take us to the 
heart of our problem, which is super-rational. For we ought really 
to read the book in two ways at once. (And we ought to look at 
a picture in two ways at once, and to listen to music similarly.) 
We ought to perform a miracle the nature of which was hintecl at 
by the Almighty when he said he was always glad to receive 
Mephistopheles in Heaven and hear him chat. 


£ 


115 



ART IN GENERAL 


I would speak tentatively, but it seems to me that we are most 
likely to perform that miracle in the case of music. Music, more 
than the other arts, postulates a double existence. It exists in 
time, and also exists outside time, instantaneously. With no 
philosophic training, I cannot put my belief clearly, but I can 
conceive myself hearing a piece as it goes by and also when it 
has finished. In the latter case I should hear it as an entity, as a 
piece of sound-architecture, not as a sound-sequence, not as 
something divisible into bars. Yet it would be organically con- 
nected with the concert-hall performance. Architecture and 
sequence would, in my apprehension, be more closely fused 
than the two separate readings of a book in Virginia Woolf’s. 

The claim of criticism to take us to the heart of the arts must 
therefore be disallowed. Another claim has been made for it, 
a more precise one. It has been suggested that criticism can help 
an artist to improve his work. If that be true, a raison d'itre is 
established at once. Criticism becomes an important figure, a 
handmaid to beauty, holding out the sacred lamp in whose 
light creation proceeds, feeding the lamp with oil, trimming the 
wick when it flares or smokes. It would be interesting to know 
whether criticism has helped musicians in their work today, and 
if so how. Has she held up the lamp? No doubt she illuminates 
past mistakes or merits, that certainly is within her power, but 
has the better knowledge of them any practical value? 

A remark of Mr C. Day Lewis is interesting in this connection. 
It comes at the opening of The Poetic Image, 

There is always something formidable for the poet in the idea 
of criticism — something, dare I say it? almost unreal. He 
writes a poem; then he moves on to the new experience, the 
next poem: and when a critic comes along and tells him what 
is right or wrong with that first poem, he has a feeling of 
irrelevance. 

Something almost unreal. That is a just remark. The poet is 
always developing and moving on, and when his creative state 
is broken into by comments on something he has just put behind 
him he feels bewildered. His reaction is, “What arc you talking 
about? Must you?” Once again, and in its purest form, the 
division between the critical and creative states, the absence of 
spiritual parity, becomes manifest. In its purest form because 
poetry is an extreme form of art, and is a convenient field for 
experiment. My own art, the mixed art of fiction, is less suitable, 

116 



THE RAISON D’iXRE OF CRITICISM 

yet I can truly say with Mr Day Lewis that I have nearly always 
found criticism irrelevant. When I am praised, I am pleased; 
when I am blamed, I am displeased ; when I am told I am elusive, 
I am surprised — but neither the pleasure nor the sorrow nor the 
astonishment makes any difference when next I enter the creative 
state. One can eliminate a particular defect perhaps; to sub- 
stitute merit is the difficulty. I remember that in one of my 
earlier novels I was blamed for the number of sudden deaths in 
it, which were said to amount to forty-four per cent of the fictional 
population. I took heed, and arranged that characters in sub- 
sequent novels should die less frequently and give previous notice 
where possible by means of illness or some other acceptable device. 
But I was not inspired to put anything vital in the place of the 
sudden deaths. The only remedy for a defect is inspiration, the 
subconscious stuff that comes up in the bucket. A piece of con- 
temporary music, to my ear, has a good many sudden deaths in 
it; the phrases expire as rapidly as the characters in my novel, 
the chords cut each other’s throats, the arpeggio has a heart 
attack, the fugue gets into a nose-dive. But these defects — if 
defects they be — ^are vital to the general conception. They are 
not to be remedied by substituting sweetness. And the musician 
would do well to ignore the critic even when he admits the 
justice of the particular criticism. 

Only in two ways can criticism help the artist a little with 
his work. The first is general. He ought — if he keeps company 
at all — to keep good company. To be alone may be best — to 
be alone was what Fate reserved for Beethoven. But if he wishes 
to consort with ideas and standards and the works of his fellows 
— and he usually has to in the modern world — he must beware 
of the second-rate. It means a relaxation of fibre, a temptation 
to rest on his own superiority. I do not desire to use the words 
“superior” and “inferior” about human individuals; in an 
individual so many factors arc present that one cannot grade 
him. But one can legitimately apply them to cultural standards, 
and the artist should be critical here, and alive in particular to 
the risks of the clique. The clique is a valuable social device, 
which only a fanatic would condemn; it can protect and en- 
courage the artist. It is the artist’s duty, if he needs to be in a 
clique, to choose a good one, and to take care it doesn’t make 
him bumptious or sterile or silly. The lowering of critical stan- 
dards in what one may call daUy studio life, their corruption by 
adulation or jealousy, may lead to inferior work. Good standards 


117 



ART IN GENERAL 


may lead to good work. That is all that there seems to be to 
say about this vague assistance, and maybe it was not worth 
saying. 

The second way in which criticism can help the artist is more 
specific. It can help him over details, niggling details, minutiae 
of style. To refer to my own work again, I have certainly 
benefited by being advised not to use the word “but’’ so often. 
I have had a university education, you sec, and it disposes one to 
overwork that particular conjunction. It is the strength of the 
academic mind to be fair and see both sides of a question. It 
is its weakness to be timid and to suffer from that fear-of-giving- 
oneself-away disease of which Samuel Butler speaks. Both its 
strength and its weakness incline it to the immoderate use of 
“but”. A good many “but”s have occurred today, but not as 
many as if I had not been warned. The writer of the opposed 
type, the extrovert, the man who knows what he knows, and 
likes what he likes, and doesn’t care who knows it — he should 
doubtless be subject to the opposite discipline; he should be 
criticized because he never uses “but”; he should be tempted 
to employ the qualifying clause. The man who has a legal mind 
should probably go easy on his “if”s. Fiddling little matters. 
Yes, I know. The sort of trifling help which criticism can give 
the artist. She cannot help him in great matters. 

With these random considerations my paper must close. The 
latter part of it has been overshadowed and perhaps obsessed by 
my consciousness of the gulf between the creative and critical 
states. Perhaps the gulf does not exist, perhaps it docs not 
signify, perhaps I have been making a gulf out of a molehill. 
But in my view it does prevent the establishment of a first-class 
raison d'Stre for criticism in the arts. The only activity which 
can establish such a raison d^itre is love. However cautiously, 
or with whatever reservations, after whatsoever purifications, we 
must come back to love. That alone raises us to the cooperation 
with the artist which is the sole reason for our aesthetic pilgrim- 
age. That alone promises spiritual parity. My main conclusion 
on criticism has therefore to be unfavourable; it does not and 
cannot go to the heart of things, nor have I succeeded in finding 
that it has given substantial help to the artists. [i947] 


118 



The C Minor of that Life 


Does “Three Blind Mice” sound different when it is played 
in different keys ? I ask for first aid on this problem. Of course 
if it is played high up it will sound different from when it is 
played low down: the Mice will squeak more shrilly. But that is 
not my problem. And, of course, if it is played first in one key 
and then in another, it will sound different the second time, owing 
to the relation between the keys: the Mice will seem increasingly 
insolent, or increasingly pathetic. But that again is not my prob- 
lem. What I am muddling after is this : is there any absolute dif- 
ference between keys — a difference that is inherent, not relative ? 
Have they special qualities, and, if they have, can the qualities 
be named, and is there any key which is particularly suitable for 
“Three Blind Mice”? 

I have battered my head against this for years — a head un- 
trained musically, and unacquainted with any instrument beyond 
the piano. Perhaps, like many amateur’s problems, it is no 
problem, but one of those solemn mystifications which are erec- 
ted by ignorance, and which would disappear under proper 
instruction. I continue to wonder whether keys have colours, 
or something analogous to colour (as the scales in Indian music 
have), whether they tint the tunes which are played in them, 
and which key would be most suitable for the Mice. C Major? 
And D major for “Pop Goes the Weasel”? Or is it the other 
way round ? Or does it not matter either way? 

The problem, if it is one, is connected with our sense of pitch. 
If we can’t tell what note is being sounded, if we don’t know what 
key the Mice are being played in, why then it can’t matter to us 
in which key they arc played. What the car cannot hear, the 
heart cannot grieve. And I generally can’t tell. My sense of 
pitch — though it does exist — ^is shaky and feeble and easily foiled 
by a few chromatics. I think I can tell when a tune is in C major, 
and I do frankly consider this key the most suitable for the Mice 
— it is straightforward, nurserified, unassuming. Mice in A flat 
would greatly overstate their claims, for A flat is a delicate suave 


”9 



ART IN GENERAL 


gracious intimate refined key. And Mice in E would be presented 
far too brilliantly. I mention these three keys (C, A flat and E) 
because I most readily detect them, and am therefore the more 
ready to ascribe them characteristics. Besides them, I sometimes 
spot F, which has the lyric quality of A flat, only less marked, and 
C sharp (D flat), which has the brilliancy of E, only more marked. 
Outside these five, it is usually guesswork for me. 

The above are all major. More easily detected than any, and 
more interesting than any, because it moved so often through the 
mind and under the fingers of Beethoven, is the key of C minor. 
Perhaps because it evokes him, but perhaps because of something 
inherent in it which attracted him, it appeals very readily to our 
sense of pitch, and if the Mice deserted their proper mode and 
put on its immensities they would soon be run down. Beethoven, 
like myself, had feelings for certain keys, and he makes some 
quaint remarks about them. For instance, he calls B minor a 
“black** key: rather odd — it never struck me as “black**; brown 
is the utmost I would go to. Again he calls A flat “barbaresco, 
not amoroso**, and here he is obviously wrong! I have already 
defined the character of A flat ! Anyhow, if he did think it “ bar- 
baresco*’, why did he choose it for the slow movement of the 
Pathetic Sonata? C sharp he calls “maestoso**. Here he is quite 
right, and Wagner agrees with us, and has chosen this sparkling 
yet noble key for the closes both of Rheingold and of Gotterddm- 
merung; the Gods go up to Valhalla and fall from it in C sharp. 

But of C minor, the key he has made his own, Beethoven says 
nothing, so far as I know. He has invested in it deeply. If we lost 
everything he wrote except what is in this key, we should still 
have the essential Beethoven, the Beethoven tragic, the Beet- 
hoven so excited at the approach of something enormous that he 
can only just interpret and subdue it. It would be a pity to lose 
a Beethoven unbuttoned, a Beethoven yodelling, but this musi- 
cian excited by immensities is unique in the annals of any art. 
No one has ever been so thrilled by things so huge, for the vast 
masses of doom crush the rest of us before we can hope to meas- 
ure them. Fate knocks at our door; but before the final tap can 
sound, the flimsy door flics into pieces, and we never learn the 
sublime rhythm of destruction. 

The catalogue of the C minor items is a familiar one. Heading 
it is the Fifth Symphony. Then there is the great violin sonata — 
greater than the K^eutzer, many critics think. There is the Third 
Piano Concerto. There is the Pathetic Sonata, with its opening 


190 



THE C MINOR OF THAT LIFE 

groan, and the last piano sonata (Op. 1 1 1), with its opening dive 
into the abyss. There is the movement from the third Rasumov- 
sky quartet, there are the Thirty-Two Variations. And there is 
probably a good deal more, some of it hidden away in works of 
other key-signatures. It would be absurd to press for similarities 
in items so different in intention and in date, but one has in all 
of them the conviction that Beethoven has found himself, that 
he is where he most wanted to be, that he is engaged in the pur- 
suit of something outside sound — something which has fused the 
sinister and the triumphant. 

There is a proof of this — at least it seems to me to be a proof — 
“indication’* is the wiser word, no doubt — in the earliest of all 
the piano sonatas (Op. 2, No. i). The key is F minor, and we go 
Mozarting ahead until we reach the last movement. This is a 
scrattling prestissimo, spitting triplets all over the place, and bang- 
ing out not very amusing chords. After twenty bars, the triplets 
run down into the earth and re-emerge in the C minor key. 
Now the excitement begins. Beethoven, for the first time in his 
life, opens out. He plays with the new key for twelve bars, estab- 
lishing it more firmly and heating himself up more at each note — 
and then out of it there soars a new tune, a tunc in octaves, not 
loud, not elaborate, but tearing down the curtains and letting 
in the unknown light. As it sings itself out, the triplets get some- 
thing to do which is worth doing, and when it ends, and the 
banging chords re-enter, they talk sense. This knack of turning 
dullish stuff into great stuff is characteristic of Beethoven, and 
incidentally one of the reasons why one ought never to skip the 
repeats when playing him — for only at the repeat does one hear 
what the dullish stuff means. But it thrills me that he should 
have exercised the knack first in the key of C minor, and that 
from that attitude he should have prospected the wildest and 
most wonderful land of his empire. 

Thus far have our Mice led us. Holding up their tails, let us 
count them. Firstly, there may be nothing in key. Secondly, 
there can be nothing in key unless we have the sense of pitch. 
Thirdly, Beethoven thought, rightly or wrongly, that there was 
something in a key, and cither chose C minor when he was in a 
particular mood, or was put into a particular mood after choos- 
ing it. Mozart’s fondness for D major may also be noted, but in 
this respect, and indeed in others, Mozart did not go so far. 

[i94»3 


131 



Not Listening to Music 


Listening to music is such a muddle that one scarcely knows 
how to start describing it. The first point to get clear in my own 
case is that during the greater part of every performance I do 
not attend. The nice sounds make me think of something else. 
I wool-gather most of the time, and am surprised that others 
don’t. Professional critics can listen to a piece as consistently 
and as steadily as if they were reading a chapter in a novel. 
This seems to me an amazing feat, and probably they only 
achieve it through intellectual training; that is to say, they 
find in the music the equivalent of a plot; they are following 
the ground-bass or expecting the theme to re-enter in the domi- 
nant, and so on, and this keeps them on the rails. But I fly off 
every minute: after a bar or two I think how musical I am, or 
of something smart I might have said in conversation; or I 
wonder what the composer — dead a couple of centuries — can be 
feeling as the flames on the altar still flicker up; or how soon an 
H.E. bomb would extinguish them. Not to mention more ob- 
vious distractions: the tilt of the soprano’s chin or chins; the an- 
tics of the conductor, that impassioned beetle, especially when it 
is night time and he waves his shards; the affectation of the pianist 
when he takes a top note with difficulty, as if he too were a 
soprano; the backs of the chairs; the bumps on the ceiling; the 
extreme physical ugliness of the audience. A classical audience 
is surely the plainest collection of people anywhere assembled for 
any common purpose; contributing my quota, I have the right 
to point this out. Compare us with a gang of navvies or with 
an office staff, and you will be appalled. This, too, distracts 
me. 

What do I hear during the intervals when I do attend? Two 
sorts of music. They melt into each other all the time, and arc 
not easy to christen, but I will call one of them “music that re- 
minds me of something”, and the other “music itself”. I used 
to be very fond of music that reminded me of something, and 
especially fond of Wagner. With Wagner I always knew where 


122 



NOT LISTENING TO MUSIC 


I was; he never let the fancy roam; he ordained that one phrase 
should recall the ring, another the sword, another the blameless 
fool and so on; he was as precise in his indications as an oriental 
dancer. Since he is a great poet, that did not matter, but I 
accepted his leitmotiv system much too reverently and forced it 
onto other composers whom it did not suit, such as Beethoven 
and Franck. I thought that music must be the better for having 
a meaning. I think so still, but am less clear as to what “a mean- 
ing” is. In those days it was either a non-musical object, such 
as a sword or a blameless fool, or a non-musical emotion, such 
as fear, lust or resignation. When music reminded me of some- 
thing which was not music, I supposed it was getting me some- 
where. “How like Monet!” I thought when listening to De- 
bussy, and “How like Debussy!” when looking at Monet. I 
translated sounds into colours, saw the piccolo as apple-green, 
and the trumpets as scarlet. The arts were to be enriched by 
taking in one another’s washing. 

I still listen to some music this way. For instance, the slow 
start of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony invokes a gray-green 
tapestry of hunting scenes, and the slow movement of his Fourth 
Piano Concerto (the dialogue between piano and orchestra) re- 
minds me of the dialogue between Orpheus and the Furies in 
Gluck. The climax of the first movement of the Appassionata 
(the “piCi allegro”) seems to me sexual, although I can detect 
no sex in the Kreutzer, nor have I come across anyone who 
could, except Tolstoy. That disappointing work, Brahms’s 
Violin Concerto, promises me clear skies at the opening, and only 
when the violin has squealed up in the air for page after page is 
the promise falsified. Wolf’s “Ganymcd” does give me sky — 
stratosphere beyond stratosphere. In these cases and in many 
others music reminds me of something non-musical, and I 
fancy that to do so is part of its job. Only a purist would con- 
demn all visual parallels, all emotional labellings, all pro- 
grammes. 

Yet there is a danger. Music that reminds docs open the door 
to that imp of the concert-hall, inattention. To think of a gray- 
green tapestry is not very different from thinking of the backs of 
the chairs. We gather a superior wool from it, still we do wool- 
gather, and the sounds slip by blurred. The sounds! It is for 
them that we come, and the closer we can get up against them 
the better. So I do prefer “ music itself” and listen to it and for it 
as far as possible, In this connection, I will try to analyse a mishap 



ART IK general 


that has recently overtaken the Coriolanus Overture. I used to 
listen to the Coriolanus for “itself”, conscious when it passed of 
something important 2^nd agitating, but not defining further. 
Now I learn that Wagner, endorsed by Sir Donald Tovey, has 
provided it with a Programme: the opening bars indicate the 
hero’s decision to destroy the Volsci, then a sweet tune for female 
influence, then the dotted-quavcr-restlessness of indecision. This 
seems indisputable, and there is no doubt that this was, or was 
almost, Beethoven’s intention. All the same, I have lost my 
Coriolanus. Its largeness and freedom have gone. The exqui- 
site sounds have been hardened like a road that has been tarred 
for traffic. One has to go somewhere down them, and to pass 
through the same domestic crisis to the same military impasse, 
each time the overture is played. 

Music is so very queer that an amateur is bound to get muddled 
when writing about it. It seems to be more “ real ” than anything, 
and to survive when the rest of civilization decays. In these days 
I am always thinking of it with relief. It can never be ruined or 
nationalized. So that the music which is untrammelled and un- 
tainted by reference is obviously the best sort of music to listen to ; 
we get nearer the centre of reality. Yet though it is untainted it is 
never abstract; it is not like mathematics, even when it uses them. 
The Gk)ldberg Variations, the last Beethoven sonata, the Franck 
Quartet, the Schumann Piano Quintet and the Fourth Symphon- 
ies of Tchaikovsky and of Brahms certainly have a message. 
Though what on earth is it? I shall get tied up trying to say. 
There’s an insistence in music — expressed largely through rhythm; 
there’s a sense that it is trying to push across at us something 
which is neither an aesthetic pattern nor a sermon. That’s what 
I listen for specially. 

So music that is itself seems on the whole better than music 
that reminds. And now to end with an important point: my 
own performances upon the piano. These grow worse yearly, but 
never will I give them up. For one thing, they compel me to 
attend — no wool-gathering or thinking myself clever here — and 
they drain off all non-musical matter. For another thing, they 
teach me a little about construction. I see what becomes of a 
phrase, how it is transformed or returned, sometimes bottom 
upward, and get some notion of the relation of keys. Playing 
B^thoven, as I generally do, I grow familiar with his tricks, his 
impatience, his sudden softnesses, his dropping of a tragic theme 
one semitone, his love, when tragic, for the key of C minor, and 


124 



NOT LISTENING TO MUSIC 


his aversion to the key of B major. This gives me a physical 
approach to Beethoven which cannot be gained through the 
slough of “appreciation”. Even when people play as badly as 
I do, they should continue: it will help them to listen. 


[1939] 



Not Looking at Pictures 


Pictures arc not easy to look at. They generate private fantasies, 
they furnish material for jokes, they recall scraps of historical 
knowledge, they show landscapes where one would like to wander 
and human beings whom one would like to resemble or adore, 
but looking at them is another matter, yet they must have been 
painted to be looked at. They were intended to appeal to the 
eye, but, almost as if it were gazing at the sun itself, the eye often 
reacts by closing as soon as it catches sight of them. The mind 
takes charge instead and goes off on some alien vision. The 
mind has such a congenial time that it forgets what set it going. 
Van Gogh and Corot and Michelangelo are three different 
painters, but if the mind is indisciplined and uncontrolled by the 
eye they may all three induce the same mood, we may take just 
the same course through dreamland or funland from them, each 
time, and never experience anything new. 

I am bad at looking at pictures myself, and the late Roger 
Fry enjoyed going to a gallery with me now and then, for this 
very reason. He found it an amusing change to be with some- 
one who scarcely ever saw what the painter had painted. “Tell 
me, why do you like this, why do you prefer it to that?” he 
would ask, and listen agape for the ridiculous answer. One 
day we looked at a fifteenth-century Italian predella, where a 
St George was engaged in spearing a dragon of the plesio- 
saurus type. I laughed. “Now, what is there funny in this?” 
pounced Fry. I readily explained. The fun was to be found in 
the expression upon the dragon’s face. The spear had gone 
through its hooped-up neck once, and now startled it by arriving 
at a second thickness. “Oh dear, here it comes again, I hoped 
that was all,” it was thinking. Fry laughed too, but not at the 
misfortunes of the dragon. He was amazed that anyone could 
go so completely off the lines. There was no harm in it — ^but 
really, really! He was even more amazed when our enthusiasms 
coincided: “I fancy we arc talking about different things,” he 
would say, and we always were; I liked the moimtain-back 

ia6 



NOT LOOKING AT PICTURES 

because it reminded me of a peacock, he because it had some 
structural significance, though not as much as the sack of potatoes 
in the foreground. 

Long years of wandering down miles of galleries have con- 
vinced me that there must be something rare in those coloured 
slabs called “pictures”, something which I am incapable of 
detecting for myself, though glimpses of it are to be had through 
the eyes of others. How much am I missing? And what? And 
are other modern sightseers in the same fix? Ours is an aural 
rather than a visual age, we do not get so lost in the concert-hall, 
we seem able to hear music for ourselves, and to hear it as music, 
but in galleries so many of us go off at once into a laugh or a 
sigh or an amorous day dream. In vain does the picture recall 
us. “What have your obsessions got to do with me?” it com- 
plains. “ I am neither a theatre of varieties nor a spring-mattress, 
but paint. Look at my paint.” Back we go — the picture kindly 
standing still meanwhile, and being to that extent more obliging 
than music — and resume the looking business. But something is 
sure to intervene — a tress of hair, the half-open door of a sununer- 
house, a Crivelli dessert, a Bosch fish-and-fiend salad — and to 
draw us away. 

One of the things that helps us to keep looking is composition. 
For many years now I have associated composition with a dia- 
gonal line, and when I find such a line I imagine I have gutted 
the picture’s secret. Giorgione’s Castelfranco Madonna has such a 
line in the lance of the warrior-saint, and Titian’s Entombment 
at Venice has a very good one indeed. Five figures contribute 
to make up the diagonal: beginning high on the left with the 
statue of Moses, it passes through the heads of the Magdalene, 
Mary and the dead Christ, and plunges through the body of 
Joseph of Arimathea into the ground. Making a right angle to it, 
flits the winged Genius of Burial. And to the right, apart from it, 
and perpendicular, balancing the Moses, towers the statue of 
Faith. Titian’s Entombment is one of my easiest pictures. I look 
at photographs of it intelligently, and encourage the diagonal and 
the pathos to reinforce one another. I see, with more than usual 
vividness, the grim alcove at the back and the sinister tusked 
pedestals upon which the two statues stand. Stone shuts in flesh; 
the whole picture is a tomb. I hear sounds of lamentation, thoijgh 
not to the extent of shattering the general scheme; that is held 
together by the emphatic diagonal, which no emotion breaks, 
Titian was a very old man when he achieved this masterpiece; 


127 



ART IN GENERAL 


that too I realize, but not immoderately. Composition here 
really has been a help, and it is a composition which no one can 
miss: the diagonal slopes as obviously as the band on a threshing- 
machine, and vibrates with power. 

Unfortunately, having no natural aesthetic aptitude, I look 
for diagonals everywhere, and if I cannot find one think the com- 
position must be at fault. It is a word which I have learnt — a 
solitary word in a foreign language. For instance, I was com- 
pletely baffled by Velasquez’s Las Meninas, Where ever was the 
diagonal? Then the friend I was with — Charles Mauron, the 
friend who, after Roger Fry, has helped me with pictures most — 
set to work on my behalf, and cautiously underlined the themes. 
There is a wave. There is a half-wave. The wave starts up on 
the left, with the head of the painter, and curves down and up 
through the heads of the three girls. The half-wave starts with 
the head of Isabel de Velasco, and sinks out of the canvas through 
the dwarfs. Responding to these great curves, or inverting them, 
are smaller ones on the women’s dresses or elsewhere. All these 
waves arc not merely pattern; they are doing other work too — 
e.g. helping to bring out the effect of depth in the room, and the 
effect of air. Important too is the pushing forward of objects in 
the extreme left and right foregrounds, the easel of the painter 
in the one case, the paws of a placid dog in the other. From these, 
the composition curves back to the central figure, the lovely child- 
princess. I put it more crudely than did Charles Mauron, nor 
do I suppose that his account would have been Velasquez’s, or 
that Velasquez would have given any account at all. But it is 
an example of the way in which pictures should be tackled for 
the benefit of us outsiders: coolly and patiently, as if they were 
designs, so that we are helped at last to the appreciation of some- 
thing non-matheraatical. Here again, as in the case of the 
Entombment^ the composition and the action reinforced one 
another. I viewed with increasing joy that adorable party, which 
had been surprised not only by myself but by the King and 
Qjacen of Spain. There they were in the looking-glass! Las 
Meninas has a snapshot quality. The party might have been 
taken by Philip IV, if Philip IV had had a Kodak. It is all so 
casual — and yet it is all so elaborate and sophisticated, and I 
suppose those curves and the rest of it help to bring this out, 
and to evoke a vanished civilization. 

Besides composition there is colour. 1 look for that, too, but 
with even less success. Colour is visible when thrown in my face 

12B 



NOT LOOKING AT PICTURES 

— like the two cherries in the great gray Michael Sweerts group 
in the National Gallery. But as a rule it is only material for 
dream. 

On the whole, I am improving, and after all these years I am 
learning to get myself out of the way a little, and to be more 
receptive, and my appreciation of pictures docs increase. If I 
can make any progress at all, the average outsider should do 
better still. A combination of courage and modesty is what he 
wants. It is so unenterprising to annihilate everything that’s 
made to a green thought, even when the thought is an exquisite 
one. Not-looking at art leads to one goal only. Looking at it 
leads to so many. 

[1939] 


129 




The Arts in Action 




John Skelton 


A lecture given at the 
Aldeburgh Festival of 1950 

John Skelton was an East Anglian; he was a poet, also a clergy- 
man, and he was extremely strange. Partly strange because the 
age in which he flourished — that of the early Tudors — is remote 
from us, and difficult to interpret. But he was also a strange 
creature personally, and whatever you think of him when we’ve 
finished — and you will possibly think badly of him — you will 
agree that we have been in contact with someone unusual. 

Let us begin with solidity — ^with the church where he was rec- 
tor. That still stands; that can be seen and touched, though its 
incumbent left it over four hundred years ago. He was rector of 
Diss, a market town which lies just in Norfolk, just across the 
river Waveney, here quite a small stream, and Diss church is 
somewhat of a landmark, for it stands upon a hill. A winding 
High Street leads up to it, and the High Street, once very narrow, 
passed through an arch in its tower which still remains. The 
church is not grand, it is not a great architectural triumph like 
Blythburgh or Framlingham. But it is adequate, it is dignified 
and commodious, and it successfully asserts its pre-eminence over 
its surroundings. Here our poet-clergyman functioned for a time, 
and, I may add, carried on. 

Not much is known about him, though he was the leading 
literary figure of his age. He was born about 1460, probably in 
Norfolk, was educated at Cambridge, mastered the voluble in- 
elegant Latin of his day, entered the Church, got in touch with 
the court of Henry VII, and became tutor to the future Henry 
VIII. He was appointed “Poet Laureate”, and this was con- 
firmed by the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Louvain. 
In the early years of Henry VIII he voiced official policy — for 
instance, in his poems against the Scots after Flodden. * But, 
unfortunately for himself, he attacked another and a greater 
East Anglian, Cardinal Wolsey of Ipswich, and after that his 


133 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


influence declined. He was appointed rector of Diss in 1503, and 
held the post till his death in 1529. But he only seems to have 
been in residence during the earlier years. Life couldn’t have 
been congenial for him there. He got across the Bishop of Nor- 
wich, perhaps about his marriage or semi-marriage, and he 
evidently liked London and the court, being a busy contentious 
fellow, and found plenty to occupy him there. A few bills and 
documents, a few references in the works of others, a little post- 
humous gossip, and his own poems, arc all that we have when we 
try to reconstruct him. Beyond doubt he is an extraordinary 
character, but not one which it is easy to focus. Let us turn to 
his poems. 

I will begin with the East Anglian poems, and with “Philip 
Sparrow”. This is an unusually charming piece of work. It was 
written while Skelton was at Diss, and revolves round a young 
lady called Jane, who was at school at a nunnery close to Nor- 
wich. Jane had a pet sparrow — a bird which is far from fashion- 
able today, but which once possessed great social prestige. In 
ancient Rome, Catullus sang of the sparrow of Lesbia, the dingy 
little things were housed in gilt cages, and tempted with delicious 
scraps all through the Middle Ages, and they only went out when 
the canary came in. Jane had a sparrow, round which all her 
maidenly soul was wrapped. Tragedy followed. There was a 
cat in the nunnery, by name Gib, who lay in wait for Philip 
Sparrow, pounced, killed him and ate him. The poor girl was 
in tears, and her tragedy was taken up and raised into poetry by 
her sympathetic admirer, the rector of Diss. 

He produced a lengthy poem — it seemed difficult at that time 
to produce a poem that was not long. “Philip Sparrow” swings 
along easily enough, and can still be read with pleasure by those 
who will overlook its volubility, its desultoriness and its joky 
Latin. 

It begins, believe it or not, with a parody of the Office for the 
Dead; Jane herself is supposed to be speaking, and she slings her 
Latin about well if quaintly. Soon tiring of the church service, 
she turns to English, and to classical allusions: 

When I remember again 
How my Philip was slain 
Never half the pain 
Was between you twain, 

Pyramus and Thisbe, 


*34 



JOHN SKELTON 

As then befell to me; 

I wept and I wailed 
The teares down hailed, 

But nothing it availed 
To call Philip again 
Whom Gib our cat has slain. 

Gib I say our cat 
Worrowed him on that 
Which I loved best, . . . 

I fell down to the ground ^ 

Then — in a jumble of Christian and antique allusions, most 
typical of that age — she thinks of Hell and Pluto and Cerberus 
— whom she calls Cerebus — and Medusa and the Furies, and 
alternately prays Jupiter and Jesus to save her sparrow from the 
infernal powers. 


It was so pretty a fool 
It would sit upon a stool 
And learned after my school. . . . 

It had a velvet cap 

And would sit upon my lap 

And would seek after small worm6s 

And sometimes white bread crumb6s 

And many times and oft 

Between my breast^s soft 

It would lie and rest 

It was proper and prest! 

Sometimes he would gasp 
When he saw a wasp ; 

A fly or a gnat 

He would fly at that 

And prettily he would pant 

When he saw an ant 

Lord how he would pry 

After a butterfly 

Lord how he would hop 

After the grasshop 

And when I said “Phip Phip** 

Then he would leap and skip 
And take me by the lip. 

Alas it will me slo 
That Philip is gone me fro! 

^ The quotations are not verbally accurate. The text has been simplified for 
the purpose of reading aloud. 


135 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


Jane proceeds to record his other merits^ which include picking 
fleas off her person — this was a sixteenth-century girls’ school, 
not a twentieth-, vermin were no disgrace, not even a surprise, 
and Skelton always manages to introduce the coarseness and 
discomfort of his age. She turns upon the cat again, and hopes 
the greedy grypes will tear out his tripes. 

Those villainous false cats 
Were made for mice and rats 
And not for bird6s small. 

Alas, my face waxeth pale. . . . 

She goes back to the sparrow and to the church service, and 
draws up an enormous catalogue of birds who shall celebrate his 
obsequies : 

Our chanters shall be the cuckoo, 

The culver, the stockdoo. 

The “peewit”, the lapwing. 

The Versiclcs shall sing. 

— together with other songsters, unknown in these marshes and 
even elsewhere. She now wants to write an epitaph, but is held 
up by her diffidence and ignorance; she has read so few books, 
though the list of those she has read is formidable; moreover, 
she has little enthusiasm for the English language — 

Our natural tongue is rude. 

And hard to be ennewed 
With polished termes lusty 
Our language is so rusty 
So cankered, and so full 
Of froward, and so dull. 

That if I would apply 
To write ornately 
I wot not where to find 
Terms to serve my mind. 

Shall she try Latin? Yes, but she will hand over the job to the 
Poet Laureate of Britain, Skelton, and, with this neat compliment 
to himself, Skelton ends the first part of “Philip Sparrow”. 

He occupies the second part with praising Jane, 

This most goodly flower. 

This blossom of fresh colour 
So Jupiter me succour 
She flourishes new and new 
In beauty and virtue, 

136 



JOHN SKELTON 

bypasses the sparrow, and enters upon a love poem: 

But wherefore should I note 
How often did I toot 
Upon her pretty foot 
It bruised mine heart-root 
To see her tread the ground 
With heeles short and round. 

The rector is in fact losing his head over a schoolgirl, and has to 
pull himself up. No impropriety is intended, he assures us, 

There was no vice 
Nor yet no villainy. 

But only fantasy. . . . 

It were no gentle guise 
This treatise to despise 
Because I have written and said 
Honour of this fair maide. 

Wherefore shall I be blamed 
That I Jane have named 
And famously proclaimed? 

She is worthy to be enrolled 
In letters of gold. 

Then he too slides into Latin and back into the Office of the Dead : 
Requiem aetemam dona eis Domine, he chants. 

This poem of Philip Sparrow — the pleasantest Skelton ever 
wrote — helps to emphasize the difference in taste and in style 
between the sixteenth century and our own. His world is in- 
finitely remote; not only is it coarse and rough, but there is an 
uncertainty of touch about it which we find hard to discount. Is 
he being humorous? Undoubtedly, but where arc we supposed 
to laugh? Is he being serious? If so, where and how much? 
We don’t find the same uncertainty when we read his predecessor 
Chaucer, or his successor Shakespeare. We know where they 
stand, even when we cannot reach them. Skelton belongs to an 
age of break-up, which had just been displayed politically in the 
Wars of the Roses. He belongs to a period when England was 
trying to find herself— as indeed do we today, though we have 
to make a different sort of discovery after a different type of war. 
He is very much the product of his times — a generalization that 
can be made of all writers, but not always so aptly. The solidity 
of the Middle Ages was giving way beneath his feet, and he 
did not know that the Elizabethan age was coming — any more 

137 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


than wc know what is coming. Wc have not the least idea, what- 
ever the politicians prophesy. It is appropriate, at this point, 
to quote the wisest and most impressive lines he ever wrote — they 
are not well known, and probably they are only a fragment. 
They have a weight and a thoughtfulness which are unusual in 
him. 

Though ye suppose all jeopardies are passed 
And all is done that ye looked for before, 

Ware yet, I warn you, of Fortune’s double cast, 

For one false point she is wont to keep in store, 

And under the skin oft festered is the sore ; 

That when ye think all danger for to pass 
Ware of the lizard lieth lurking in the grass. 

It was a curious experience, with these ominous verses in my 
mind, to go to Diss and to find, carved on the buttress of the 
church, a lizard. The carving was there in Skelton’s day; that 
he noticed it, that it entered into his mind when he wrote, there 
is no reason to suppose. But its appearance, combined with the 
long grass in the churchyard, helped me to connect the present 
with the past, helped them to establish that common denominator 
without which neither has any validity. 

That when ye think all danger for to pass 
Ware of the lizard lieth lurking in the grass. 

So true of the sixteenth century, so true of today! There are 
two main answers to the eternal menace of the lizard. One of 
them is caution, the other courage. Skelton was a brave fellow 
— his opposition to Cardinal Wolsey proves that — but I don’t 
know which answer he recommends. 

But let us leave these serious considerations, and enter Diss 
church itself, where we shall be met by a fantastic scene and by 
the oddest poem even Skelton ever wrote: the poem of “Ware 
the Hawk”. Like “Philip Sparrow”, it is about a bird, but a 
bird of prey, and its owner is not the charming Jane, but an ill- 
behaved curate, who took his hawk into the church, locked all 
the doors, and proceeded to train it with the help of two live 
pigeons and a cushion stuffed with feathers to imitate another 
pigeon. The noise, the mess, the scandal, was teitific. In vain 
did the rector thump on the door and command the curate to 
open. The young man — one assumes he was young — took no 
notice, but continued his unseemly antics. Diss church is well 
suited to a sporting purpose, since its nave and choir are unusually 

138 



JOHN SKELTON 

lofty, and the rood-loft was convenient for the birds to perch on 
between the statues of the Virgin and St John. Up and down 
he rushed, uttering the cries of his craft, and even clambering 
onto the communion table. Feathers flew in all directions and 
the hawk was sick. At last Skelton found “a privy way” in, 
and managed to stop him. But he remained impenitent, and 
threatened that another day he would go fox-hunting there, and 
bring in a whole pack of hounds. 

Now is this an exaggeration, or a joke ? And why did Skelton 
delay making a poem out of it until many years had passed ? 
He does not — which is strange — even mention the name of the 
curate. 


He shall be as now nameless, 

But he shall not be blameless 
Nor he shall not be shameless. 

For sure he wrought amiss 
To hawk in my church at Diss. 

That is moderately put. It was amiss. Winding himself up into 
a rage, he then calls him a peckish parson and a Domine Daw- 
cock and a frantic falconer and a smeary smith, and scans his- 
tory in vain for so insolent a parallel; not even the Emperor 
Julian the Apostate or the Nestorian heretics flew hawks in a 
church. Nero himself would have hesitated. And the poem 
ends in a jumble and a splutter, heaps of silly Latin, a cryptogram 
and a curious impression of gaiety; a good time, one can’t help 
feeling, has been had by all. 

How, though, did Skelton get into the church and stop the 
scandal ? Perhaps through the tower. You remember my men- 
tioning that the tower of Diss church has a broad passage-way 
running through it, once part of the High Street, Today the 
passage only contains a notice saying “No bicycles to be left 
here”, together with a number of bicycles. Formerly, there was 
a little door leading up from it into the tower. That (conjectures 
an American scholar) may have been Skelton’s privy entrance. 
He may have climbed up by it, climbed down the belfry into 
the nave, and spoiled, at long last, the curate’s sport. 

There is mother poem which comes into this part of Skelton’s 
life. It is entitled “Two Knaves Sometimes of Diss”, and attacks 
two of his parishioners who had displeased him and were now 
safely dead ; John Clerk and Adam Uddersall were their names. 
Clerk, according to the poet, had raged “like a camel” and now 


139 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


lies “ Starke dead, Never a tooth in his head, Adieu, Jayberd, 
adieu, while as for Uddersall, “Belsabub his soule save, who lies 
here like a knave.” The poem is not gentlemanly. Little that 
Skelton wrote was. Not hit a man when he is down or dead? 
That’s just the moment to wait for. He can’t hit back. 

The last East Anglian poem to be mentioned is a touching 
one: to his wife. As a priest, he was not and could not be mar- 
ried, but he regarded his mistress as his legal consort, and the 
poem deals with a moment when they were parting and she was 
about to bear a child : 

’Petually 

Constrained am I 
With weeping eye 

To mourn and ’plain 
That we so nigh 
Of progeny 
So suddenly 

Should part in twain. 

When ye are gone 
Comfort is none. 

But all alone 
Endure must I 
With grievely groan 
Making my moan 
As it were one 

That should needs die. 

There is a story about the birth of this child which was written 
down after Skelton’s death, in a collection called The Merry 
Tales of Skelton. According to it, there were complaints to the 
bishop from the parish, which Skelton determined to quell. So 
he preached in Diss church on the text Vos estis^ you are, and 
suddenly called out, “Wife! Bring my Child.” Which the lady 
did. And he held the naked baby out to the congregation saying: 
“ Is not this child as fair as any of yours? It is not like a pig or a 
calf, is it? What have you got to complain about to the bishop? 
The fact is, as I said in my text, Vos estis^ you be, and have be 
and will and shall be knaves, to complayne of me without 
reasonable cause.” Historians think that this jest-book story 
enshrines a tradition. It certainly fits in with what we know of 
the poet’s fearless and abusive character. 

Tenderness also entered into that character, though it did not 

140 



JOHN SKELTON 

often show itself. Tenderness inspires that poem I have quoted, 
and is to be found elsewhere in his gentle references to women ; 
for instance, in the charming “Merry Margaret”, which often 
appears in anthologies. 

Merry Margaret 

As midsummer flower, 

Gentle as falcon 
Or hawk of the tower: 

With solace and gladness 
Much mirth and no madness 
All good and no badness. 

And in the less known but still more charming poem “To 
Mistress Isabel Pennell” which I will quote in full. Isabel was 
a little girl of eight — even younger than Jane of the sparrow. 
(“Reflaring”, near the beginning of the poem, is “redolent”. 
“Nept” means catmint.) 

By Saint Mary, my Lady, 

Your mammy and your daddy 
Brought forth a goodly baby. 

My maiden Isabel, 

Reflaring rosabcl, 

The fragrant camomel : 

The ruddy rosary, 

The sovereign rosemary 
The pretty strawberry 
The columbine, the nept. 

The jelofer well set, 

The proper violet: 

Ennewed your colour 
Is like the daisy flower 
After the April shower; 

Star of the morrow gray. 

The blossom on the spray 
The freshest flower of May: 

Maidenly demure, 

Of womanhood the lure; 

Wherefore I make you sure 
It were an heavenly health, 

It were an endless wealth, 

A life for God himself 
To hear this nightingale 
Among the bird6s small 
Warbclling in the vale: 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


Dug dug, 

Jug jug. 

Good year and good luck, 

With chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck! 

Women could touch his violent and rugged heart and make it 
gentle and smooth for a little time. It is not the dying tradition 
of chivalry, it is something personal. 

But we must leave these personal and local matters, and turn 
to London and to the political satires. The main group is 
directed against Cardinal Wolsey. The allusions are often ob- 
scure, for, though Skelton sometimes attacks his great adversary 
openly, at other times he is covering his tracks, and at other 
times complimentary and even fulsome. The ups and downs of 
which have furnished many problems for scholars. Two points 
should be remembered. Firstly, Skelton is not a precursor of 
the Reformation; he has sometimes been claimed as one by 
Protestant historians. He attacked the abuses of his Church — as 
exemplified in Wolsey’s luxury, immorality and business. He 
has nothing to say against its doctrines or organization and was 
active in the suppression of heresy. He was its loyal if scandalous 
son. 

Secondly, Wolsey appears to have behaved well. When he 
triumphed, he exacted no vengeance. Perhaps he had too much 
to think about. The story that Skelton died in sanctuary in 
St Margaret’s, Westminster, fleeing from the Cardinal’s wrath, 
is not true. He did live for the last years of his life in London, 
but freely and comfortably; bills for his supper parties have been 
unearthed. And though he was buried in St Margaret’s it was 
honourably, under an alabaster inscription. Bells were pealed, 
candles were burned. Here again we have the bills. 

The chief anti-Wolsey poems arc “Speke Parrot”, “Colin 
Clout”, “Why come ye not to Court?” and the cumbrous 
Morality play Magnificence. 

Speke Parrot — ^yct another bird; had Skelton a bird complex? 
Ornithologists must decide — Speke Parrot is one of those con- 
venient devices where Polly is made to say what Polly’s master 
hesitates to say openly. Poor Polly! Still, master is fond of 
Polly, and introduces him prettily enough. 

Parrot is no churlish chough nor no fleck6d pie, 

Parrot is no penguin that men call a carling, 

Parrot is no woodcock^ nor no butterfly, 


142 



JOHN SKELTON 

Parrot is no stammering stare that men call a starling, 
But Parrot is my own dear heart and my dear darling, 
Melpomene, that fair maid, she burnished his beak: 

I pray you, let Parrot have liberty to speak. 

Skelton’s genuine if intermittent charm continues into the next 
stanza : 


Parrot is a fair bird for a lady. 

God of his goodness him framed and wrought ; 

When parrot is dead, he doth not putrify. 

Yet all things mortal shall turn unto nought, 

Except man’s soul, that Christ so dearly bought; 
That never may die, nor never die shall — 

Make much of Parrot, the popinjay royal. 

The “popinjay royal” — that is to say the bird of King Henry 
VIII, whose goodness and generosity Wolsey abuses. And parrot, 
given his beak, says many sharp things against the Cardinal, who 
“carrieth a king in his sleeve” and plays the Pope’s game rather 
than his liege’s. Subtly and obscurely, with detailed attention 
to his comings and goings, the great man is attacked. It is a 
London poem, which could not have been written in a Norfolk 
rectory. 

Much more violent is “ Why come ye not to Court ? ” where the 
son of the Ipswich butcher gets brutally put in his place. 

Why come ye not to Court? 

To which court? 

To the king’s court 
Or to Hampton Court ? 

The king’s court should have the excellence 
But Hampton Court hath the pre-eminence. 

And at Hampton Court Wolsey rules, with 

his base progeny 
And his greasy genealogy. 

He came of the sang royaJl 

That was cast out from a butcher’s stall. . . . 

With lewd conditions coated 

As hereafter be noted — 

Presumption and vainglory, 

Envy, wrath and lechery, 

Covertise and gluttony, 

Slothful to do good. 

Now frantic, now stark mad. 


*43 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


As for “Colin Clout”. The title is the equivalent of Hodge 
or the Man in the Street, from whose point of view the poem is 
supposed to be written.^ It is a long rambling attack on bishops, 
friars, monks and the clergy generally, and Wolsey comes in 
for his share of criticism. I will quote from it not the abusive 
passages, of which you are getting plenty, but the dignified and 
devout passage with which it closes. Skelton was, after all, 
inside the church he criticized, and held its faith, and now and 
then he reminds us of this. 

Now to withdraw my pen 
And now a while to rest 
Meseemeth it for the best. 

The forecastle of my ship 
Shall glide and smoothly slip 
Out of the waves wild 
Of the stormy flood 
Shoot anchor and lie at road 
And sail not far abroad 
Till the coast be clear 
And the lode-star appear 
My ship now will I steer 
Towards the port salu 
Of our Saviour Jesu 
Such grace that He us send 
To rectify and amend 
Things that are amiss 
Where that his pleasure is. Amen. 

It is a conventional ending, but a sincere one, and reminds us 
that he had a serious side; his “Prayer to the Father of Heaven” 
was sung in the church here, to the setting of Vaughan Williams. 
He can show genuine emotion at moments, both about this 
world and the next. Here are two verses from “The Manner 
of the World Nowadays”, in which he laments the decay of 
society. 


Sometimes we sang of mirth and play 
But now our joy is gone away 
For so many fall in decay 
Saw I never: 

Whither is the wealth of England gone? 
The spiritual saith they have none, 

And so many wrongfully undone 
Saw I never. 


144 



JOHN SKELTON 

Magnificencey the last of the anti-Wolsey group, is a symbol 
for Henry VIII, who is seduced by wicked flatterers from his 
old counsellor (i.c. from Skelton himself). Largess, Counterfeit- 
Countenance, Crafty - Conveyance, Cloaked - Collusion and 
Courtly-Abusion are some of the names, and all are aspects of 
Wolscy. At enormous length and with little dramatic skill they 
ensnare Magnificence and bring him low. By the time Stage 
5, Scene 35 is reached he repents, and recalls his former adviser, 
and all is well. 

Well, so much for the quarrel between Skelton and Wolsey — 
between the parson from Norfolk and the Cardinal from Suffolk, 
and Suffolk got the best of it. Skelton may have had right on 
his side and he had courage and sincerity, but there is no doubt 
that jealousy came in too. At the beginning of Henry VIII’s 
reign he was a very important person. He had been the King’s 
tutor, he went on a semi-diplomatic mission, and as Poet Laureate 
he was a mouthpiece for official lampoons. With the advent of 
Wolsey, who tempted the king with pleasure, his importance 
declined, and he did not live to see the days when Henry preferred 
power to pleasure, and Wolsey fell. 

The satires against the Scots, next to be mentioned, belong to 
the more influential period of Skelton’s life. They centre round 
the Battle of Flodden (1513). King Henry’s brother-in-law, 
James IV of Scotland, had challenged him, had invaded England, 
and been killed at Flodden, with most of his nobility. Skelton 
celebrates the English victory with caddish joy. In quoting a 
few lines, I do not desire to ruffle any sensitive friends from over 
the Border. I can anyhow assure them that our Poet Laureate 
appears to have got as good as he gave: 

King Jamie, Jemsy, Jocky my jo, 

Ye summoned our king — why did ye so 
To you nothing it did accord 
To summon our king your sovereign lord ? . . . 
Thus for your guerdon quit arc ye. 

Thanked be God in Trinitic 

And sweet Saint George, our Lady’s knight 

Your eye is out: adew, good-night. 

And still more abusively does he attack an enemy poet called 
Dundas who wrote Latin verses against him. 

Gup, Scot, 

Ye blot 


145 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


Set in better 
Thy pentameter 
This Dundas 
This Scefttish ass, 

He rhymes and rails 

That Englishmen have tails. . . . 

Shake thy tail, Scot, like a cur 
For thou beggest at every man’s door 
Tut, Scot, I say 
Go shake thee dog, hey. . . . 

Dundas, 

That drunk ass. . . . 

Dundee, Dunbar 
Walk Scot, 

Walk sot 
Rail not so far. 

The accusation that Englishmen have tails is still sometimes made, 
and is no doubt as true as it ever was. I have not been able to 
find out how Dundas made it, since his poem has vanished. 
We can assume he was forcible. Nor have I quoted Skelton in 
full, out of deference to the twentieth century. He is said to 
have written it in his Diss rectory. That is unlikely — not because 
of its tone, but because it implies a close contact with affairs 
which he could only have maintained at Court. 

Our short Skeltonic scamper is nearing its end, but I must 
refer to the “Tunning of Elinor Rumming”, one of the most 
famous of Skelton’s poems. Elinor Rumming kept a pub — not 
in East Anglia, but down in Surrey, near Leatherhead. The 
poem is about her and her clients, who likewise belonged to the 
fair sex. 

Tell you I will 
If that you will 
A while be still 
Of a comely Jill 
That dwelt on a hill: 

She is somewhat sage 
And well worn in age 
For her visage 
It would assuage 
A man’s courage . . . 

Comely crinkle 
Wondrously wrinkled 
Like a roast pig’s ear 
Brisded with hair. 

146 



JOHN SKELTON 

You catch the tone. You taste the quality of the brew. It is 
strong and rumbustious and not too clean. Skelton is going to 
enjoy himself thoroughly. Under the guise of a satirist and a 
corrector of morals, he is out for a booze. Now the ladies come 
tumbling in : 

Early and late 
Thither cometh Kate 
Cisly and Sare 
With their legs bare 
And also their feet 
Fully unswect 
Their kirtles all to-jagged 
Their smocks all to-ragged, 

With titters and tatters 
Bring dishes and platters 
With all their might running 
To Elinor Rumming 
To have of her tunning. 

They get drunk, they tumble down in inelegant attitudes, they 
trip over the doorstep, they fight — Margery Milkduck, halting 
Joan, Maud Ruggy, drunken Alice, Bely and Sybil, in they come. 
Many of them are penniless and are obliged to pay in kind, and 
they bring with them gifts often as unsavoury as the drink they 
hope to swallow — a rancid side of bacon for example — and they 
pawn anything they can lay their hands on, from their husbands’ 
clothes to the baby’s cradle, from a frying-pan to a side-saddle. 
Elinor accepts all. It is a most lively and all-embracing poem, 
which gets wilder and lewder as it proceeds. Then Skelton 
pulls himself up in characteristic fashion. 

My fingers itch 
I have written too mich 
Of this mad mumming 
Of Elinor Rumming. 

And remembering that he is a clergyman and a Poet Laureate 
he appends some Latin verses saying that he has denounced 
drunken, dirty and loquacious women, and trusts they will take 
his warning to heart. I wonder. To my mind he has been 
thoroughly happy, as he was in the church at Diss when the 
naughty curate hawked. I often suspect satirists of happiness^— 
and I oftener suspect them of envy. Satire is not a straight 
trade. Skelton’s satires on Wolscy are of the envious type. In 


F 


147 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


“Elinor Rumming” and “Ware the Hawk” I detect a coarse 
merry character enjoying itself under the guise of censoriousness. 

Thought is frank and free; 

To think a merry thought 

It cost me little nor nought. 

One question that may have occurred to you is this: was 
Skelton typical of the educated parish priest of his age? My 
own impression is that he was, and that the men of Henry VIIFs 
reign, parsons and others, were much more unlike ourselves than 
we suppose, or, if you prefer it, much odder. We cannot unlock 
their hearts. In the reign of his daughter Elizabeth a key begins 
to be forged. Shakespeare puts it into our hands, and we recover, 
on a deeper level, the intimacy promised by Chaucer. Skelton 
belongs to an age of transition : the silly Wars of the Roses were 
behind him; he appears even to regret them, and he could not 
see the profounder struggles ahead. This makes him “difficult”, 
though he did not seem so to himself. His coarseness and ir- 
reverence will pain some people and must puzzle everyone. 
It may help us if we remember that religion is older than decorum. 

Of his poetry I have given some typical samples, and you will 
agree that he is entertaining and not quite like anyone else, that 
he has a feeling for rhythm, and a copious vocabulary. Some- 
times — but not often — he is tender and charming, occasionally 
he is devout and very occasionally he is wise. On the whole he’s 
a comic — a proper comic, with a love for improper fun, and a 
talent for abuse. He says of himself, in one of his Latin verses, 
that he sings the material of laughter in a harsh voice, and the 
description is apt; the harshness is often more obvious than the 
laughter, and leaves us with a buzzing in the ears rather than 
with a smile on the face. Such a row I Such a lot of complaints ! 
He has indeed our national fondness for grumbling — the Govern- 
ment, the country, agriculture, the world, the beer, they are 
none of them what they ought to be or have been. And, although 
we must not affix our dry litde political labels to the fluidity of 
the past (there is nothing to tie them on to), it is nevertheless 
safe to say that temperamentally the rector of Diss was a con- 
servative. 

On what note shall we leave him? A musical note commends 
itself. Let me quote three stanzas from a satire called “Against 
a Comely Coistroun” — that is to say, against a good-looking 
kitchen-boy. The. boy has been conjectured to be Lambert 

148 



JOHN SKELTON 

Simnel, the pretender to the crown of England. He was silly 
as well as seditious, and he fancied himself as a musician and 
“curiously chanted and currishly countered and madly in his 
musicks mockishly made against the Nine Muses of politic 
poems and poets matriculate” — the matriculate being Skelton, 
the Poet Laureate. Listen how he gets basted for his incompe- 
tence; you may not follow all the words, but you can hear the 
blows fall, and that’s what matters : 

He cannot find it in rule nor in space. 

He solfas too haute, his treble is too high 
He braggeth of his birth, that born was full base. 

His music without measure, too sharp is his Aff, 

He trimmeth in his tenor to counter pirdewy, 

His descant is busy, it is without a mean 
Too fat is his fancy, his wit is too lean. 

He rumble th on a lewd lute “Roty bully joys” 

Rumble down, tumble down, hey go now now! 

He fumbleth in his fingering an ugly good noise. 

It seemeth the sobbing of an old sow! 

He would be made much of, an he wist how; 

Well sped in spindles and turning of tavells; 

A bungler, a brawler, a picker of quarrels. 

Comely he clappeth a pair of clavichords 
He whistleth so sweetly, he maketh me to sweat; 

His descant is dashed full of dischords 
A red angry man, but easy to entreat: 

An usher of the hall fain would I get 

To point this proud page a place and a room 

For Jack would be a gentleman, that late was a groom. 

Kitchen-boy Simnel, if it be he, was evidently no more a per- 
former than he was a prince. Yet I would have liked to have 
him here now, red, angry, good-looking, and making a hideous 
noise, and to have heard Skelton cursing him as he screeched. 
The pair of them might have revived for us that past which is 
always too dim, always too muffled, always too refined. With 
their raucous cries in your cars, with the cries of the falconer in 
Diss church, with the squawkings of Speke Parrot, and the 
belchings of Elinor Rumming, I leave you. 

[1950] 


*49 



Julius Caesar 


While I was considering what to say about Julius Caesar^ I hap- 
pened to go to a school entertainment. It was a large primary 
school, and the boys mostly came from working-class homes; 
little boys — the eldest couldn’t have been fourteen. They acted 
some scenes out of this very play. They did not act them well — 
how should they? They had not had the time to rehearse, they 
forgot their words and said them too fast, also there was not the 
money to buy properties with : the Roman Senators wore towels 
and curtains and anything they could scrounge, and a solitary 
garland of green cardboard was handed from Caesar to Brutus 
and from Brutus to Antony as the occasion required. The audi- 
ence were more interested in identifying their offspring than in 
following the plot. Remarks could be heard such as “There he 
is, that one’s Tom,” and there were squeals from babies who 
were lifted up in their mothers’ arms to see better, and seemed 
critical of what they saw. I was critical myself — yet I had an odd 
feeling of pleasure and of awe, and certain words of Cassius after 
the murder came into my mind: 

How many ages hence 
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over, 

In states unborn and accents yet unknown ! 

If Shakespeare had been present with us in that school, he might 
not have been flattered but he would not have been surprised, 
for what he expected to occur has occurred : the play lives. 

O Julius Caesar! thou art mighty yet: 

Thy spirit walks abroad. . . . 

It was walking with us as well as circumstances permitted; it was 
part of the civilization of England and of all who read English. 

The general immortality of Shakespeare is too vast a subject. 
Let us keep to this particular play. Why has it caught on? It 
is about some old Romans who murdered one of their number 
and were finally defeated by his friends. The incident was 

150 



“JULIUS CAESAR” 

chronicled by a Greek historian, Plutarch, and Shakespeare read 
a translation of it and turned out a play somewhere about 1600. 
It seems to have been a success from the first. And we today, 
though we may not rank it with the Great Four — Hamlet^ 
Othello, Lear, Macbeth — always hail it as a typical example of 
his genius, and are excited when the curtain rises. 

It u exciting — that is one reason for its popularity. Although 
it is not carefully constructed like a Greek play or a classical 
French play, although it is not as cunning in its advance as 
Othello or Macbeth, yet it does succeed in startling us and holding 
us. It effects this by three well-timed explosions. The first of 
these explosions is of course the murder itself. The preparation 
for this is masterly — the growth of the conspiracy, omens, storms, 
apparitions, Portia’s forebodings, Calpurnia’s dream, the tempt- 
ing of Caesar to the Senate House, the failure of Artemidorus 
to save him, the luring away of Antony; and then the deed. 
And the murder is followed by a second explosion: Antony’s 
funeral speech. The excitement is revived and increased instead 
of dropping. After that, indeed, there is a lull and a failure to 
interest, until we come to the plains of Philippi and the third 
explosion: the quarrel in the tent between Brutus and Cassius. 
This is so unexpected, so natural psychologically and so touching 
that it produces a tremendous effect, and after it, his nerves all 
exhausted, Brutus beholds Caesar’s ghost. I do not mean that 
these three explosions, these three famous scenes, are the only 
reason for the play’s popularity. But they do provide the excite- 
ment, and if a drama does not excite the ordinary man it may 
satisfy its contemporaries, but it has no chance of being acted 
“in states unborn and accents yet unknown”. 

The second reason for popularity is the character-drawing, 
and particularly the character of Brutus. Before I come to it, 
I am going to risk a generalization about Shakespeare. He was 
an Elizabethan dramatist, and I do not think the Elizabethans 
were conscientious over their characters; they would often alter 
them in the middle in order to get on with the play. Beaumont 
and Fletcher contain glaring examples of this. Good men 
become bad and then good again: traitors turn into heroes 
and vice versa without any internal justification. And Shake- 
speare sometimes does it too. There is an example — not a 
glaring one — in this play, in the character of Casca. ^Casca first 
appears as extremely polite and indeed servile to Caesar. “ Peace 
ho! Caesar speaks,” he cries. Then he shows himself to Brutus 





THE ARTS IN ACTION 


and Cassius as a sour blunt contradictious fellow, who snaps 
them up when they speak and is grumpy when they invite him 
to supper. You may say this is subtlety on Shakespeare’s part, 
and that he is indicating that Casca is a dark horse. I don’t 
think so. I don’t think Shakespeare was bothering about Casca 
— he is merely concerned to make the action interesting and he 
alters the character at need. Later on, during the thunderstorm, 
Casca becomes different again; he walks about with a drawn 
sword, is deeply moved by the apparitions, and utters exalted 
poetry. At the murder scene he wounds Caesar in the neck, 
and then we hear of him no more. His usefulness is over. Con- 
trast Shakespeare here with a modem writer like Tolstoy. 
Tolstoy is conscientious over his characters, he has a personal 
responsibility to each of them, he has a vital conception of them, 
and though they are full of contradictions those contradictions 
arc true to life. Contrast Casca with Dolokhov in IVar and Peace. 
Shakespeare often doesn’t mind about his people. And when I 
am reading him one of my difficulties is to detect when he does 
mind and when he doesn’t. This may be heresy on my part, 
but it seems to me that a great deal of Shakespearean criticism 
is invalid because it assumes that his characters are real people, 
and are never put in just to make the play go. The play’s the 
thing, I suggest. 

It is delightful when the characters arc real, when Shakespeare 
does bother about them. Brutus is real, so is Cassius, so is 
Antony, so perhaps is Caesar himself. Brutus is an intellectual 
who can do things, who is not (like Hamlet) hampered by 
doubts. He can do things — but he always docs them wrong: 
his advice is invariably fatal, from the moment of the murder 
down to the battle of Philippi. He cannot realize that men 
seek their own interests, for he has never sought his own, he has 
lived nobly among noble thoughts, wedded to a noble wife. 
He is kind to his servant. Everything he does is touched with 
fineness. Yet Brutus is not frigid. He just avoids being a prig. 
We arc able to take him to our hearts. And with him is associ- 
ated the worldly but far from contemptible Cassius. Those two 
speak the same language though they sometimes use different 
words. And against them is opposed Mark Antony — brilliant, 
sensuous, devoted to Caesar, but heartless otherwise, and 
treacherous. These three support the play. The character of 
Caesar is — difficult: Shakespeare does not present him sympa- 
thetically. He makes a few fine remarks like 


*52 



“JULIUS CAESAR” 

It seems to me most strange that men should fear : 
Seeing that death, a necessary end, 

Will come when it will come. 

But goes on to talk bombast and to assert that he and Danger 

are two lions litter’d in one day 
And I the elder and more terrible. 

Do you detect a contemporary voice here? I do. It is Musso- 
lini’s. His infirmities are insisted on: his epilepsy, his deafness. 
He is pompous, conceited, showing-ofT, dictatorial. Indeed, some 
modern producers have stressed this and have presented Julius 
Caesar as a study in Fascism. But when Caesar is dead his spirit 
is mighty, and haunts Brutus and wins. I don’t know what to 
make of this. If Shakespeare were a modern writer I should be 
more clear about his conception. I should be certain that he 
has planned Caesar to be little in life and great in death. But, 
being an Elizabethan, is it possible that he may be altering 
Caesar as he alters Casca, for the sake of the play ? 

Excitement — and enough real people. Here are two of the 
reasons why Julius Caesar lives, and why, after more than three 
hundred years, it is acted by primary-school boys. At the end of 
the performance to which I have referred, after Brutus, aged 
twelve, had suicided himself, and fallen with rather a thump, 
another of the children came forward, in his little brown suit, 
to speak the epilogue. The epilogue was not by Shakespeare. 
It ran as follows : 

I come to say our play is done. 

We hope you have enjoyed the fun. 

The child then retired. He had spoken briefly but justly. Shakes- 
peare is fun. There are murders and ghosts, jealousy, remorse, 
despair, there is Othello^ there is Lear, there is even Timon of 
Athens — but — how shall I put it? Shakespeare never grumbles. 
He denounces life but he never complains of it; he presents even 
its tragedies for our enjoyment. 

[1942] 


>53 



The Stratford Jubilee of 1769 


Halfway through the eighteenth century the world of culture was 
convulsed by the fall of a mulberry tree. A clergyman had cut 
it down, since it overhung his house, and he could not have sup- 
posed that anyone would have objected to such a natural pro- 
ceeding. But he had reckoned without the J^eitgeist, The mul- 
berry tree had been planted by Shakespeare, and the worship of 
Shakespeare was just ready to begin. A storm of indignation 
arose, which the clergyman increased by refusing to pay his 
rates ; he was hounded out of Stratford, and it was decreed that 
no one of his name (which was fortunately Gastrcll) should ever 
be allowed to reside there again. The fallen tree became a sacred 
object. Relics were made from its wood, and one of these — a 
casket — was sent up by the Corporation to Garrick, the leading 
actor of the day. Inside the casket was a flattering address, and 
the freedom of the town. Now Garrick was already a Shake- 
speare expert : he had improved the last act of Hamlet almost out 
of recognition, besides transfiguring Romeo and Juliety and he was 
delighted with the attention. In a letter, still preserved, he thanks 
the Corporation warmly for the “elegant and inestimable box”, 
and he decided to organize a celebration at Stratford which should 
place the bard’s fame and his own upon a permanent and mutual 
basis. 

It is not the first Shakespeare celebration. The first may have 
resulted in the death of Shakespeare. Drayton and Jonson, it 
is said, paid a visit to their friend in 1616, and drank him into his 
grave. But this only rests on the testimony of another clergy- 
man; nor do we know much about a celebration for which there 
is historical evidence — the festivities of 1746. These were held 
in a meadow near the church for the purpose of restoring Shake- 
speare’s monument, and brought in loj., not a large sum, 
but sufficient to do considerable damage. So Garrick had his 
precedents. But he worked on a larger scale and in accordance 
with his own vivid personality. From the stage of Drury Lane 
he announced that 


*54 



THE STRATFORD JUBILEE OF 1 769 

On Avon’s banks where Flowers eternal blow, 

Like its full stream, our Gratitude shall flow! 

and he planned a three days’ Jubilee for the autumn of 1769 
which should include almost everything except the performance 
of a Shakespeare play — turtles and fireworks, processions, masked 
balls and transparencies, all centering round a rotunda on the 
model of Ranelagh to be erected on the Bancroft. “Why bring 
in Shakespeare?” the purist will murmur. But why not? There 
is no reason to suppose that Shakespeare would have minded 
being brought in, or that he would have found a rotunda less 
congenial than the formidable precipices of red brick which 
await him today a few yards down stream. 

The graver and grander minds of the epoch held aloof 
from “Garrick’s Vagary”. They suspected frivolity and self- 
advertisement. Gray was dubious. Doctor Johnson went to 
Brighton. Horace Walpole, over in Paris, announced with concern 
that the French were laughing at us. The French were welcome 
to laugh at us. Quaffing our mulberry-tree goblets, wearing 
our mulberry-tree medals, waving our “Shakespeare Ribbands 
in imitation of the Rainbow which unites the colours of all 
parties”, and singing: 

The pride of all Nature was sweet Willy O, 

The first of all swains. 

He gladden’d the plains, 

None ever was like to the sweet Willy O — 

— what did we care for the French? And here were the cannons 
and guitars to usher in the dawn, and there was Judith^ an 
oratorio by Isaac Bickerstaffe, being performed in the church 
to the music of Dr Arne, and there was Boswell dressed as a 
Corsican chief with “Corsica Boswell” in his hat, and duchesses 
as witches, and Garrick wearing Shakespeare’s own gloves, and 
the Birthplace in Henley Street illuminated, and the Jubilee 
Stakes won by a jockey who admitted that he had no great 
taste for reading. All — all was English; so what more did we 
want? 

Well, one thing more: less English weather. 

Ye gods, how it rained! It poured and poured for the whole 
three days; the procession had to be given up, the fireworks 
would not go off, the Jubilee Stakes were run knee-deep,* and 
as a final irony the Avon rose during the midnight masquerade 
and isolated the rotunda. With great difficulty were the ladies 


155 



THE ARTS m ACTION 


got out of it in time; screaming and splashing and dressed as 
witches, Cordelias and what not, they were led over slippery 
planks to their coaches through darkness and storm. The horses 
tugged, the wheels sank two feet in water and mud, the Ban- 
croft became a raging sea, and no one in these circumstances 
paid any attention to Boswell, who tried to recite a poem of 
his own composition about Corsica, with a mulberry-wood staff 
in his hand. 

Nor was the weather the only disappointment. The citizens 
of Stratford failed to give satisfaction too. They seem to have 
been in the grip of two passions — fear and avarice — and the 
oddest tales about them occur in the contemporary newspapers. 
Many of them thought that Garrick was the Devil, and barred 
themselves up in their houses ; they were terrified by the decora- 
tions, particularly by a transparency of Caliban and Trinculo, 
and their belief that God’s Judgement impended was confirmed 
by the abnormal floods. Others, more courageous, sallied forth 
through the sheets of rain to fleece the visitors. Ninepence was 
charged for washing out a pocket-handkerchief, one-and-sixpence 
for the Temple of the Graces, and two shillings for telling the 
time. One of the victims gives details of his expenses. It cost 
him ;^49 from London and back for the three days, and he was 
trying to do things as cheaply as he could. Certainly the cult 
of Shakespeare starts off with rather a jerk. 

However, Garrick managed to recite his Dedication Ode, 
which was to him and to his patrons the chief item in the Jubilee. 
He said it with gusto, in spite of a cut chin, caused through the 
drunkenness of his barber, and he stood in the middle of a line 
of female singers, who led the choruses. The Ode is an empty 
piece of writing, but its tone is significant ; it blends the exalted 
and the intimate. The same note is struck in Gainsborough’s 
portrait. There Garrick is depicted with his arm round Shake- 
speare’s waist — if a bust can be said to have a waist. His expres- 
sion is at once loyal and independent. “Stick to me and I will 
stick to you,” he seems to be saying. It is pleasant to reflect that 
Shakespeare did not betray him. Although he lost heavily over 
the fiasco, he got his money back, and more than back, on the 
stage of Drury Lane, where he presented his “Stratford Jubilee” 
with enormous success during the following winter. 

[1932] 


156 



Gibbon and his 
Autobiography 


It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing 
amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars 
were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of 
writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind. 

The sentence is a very famous one, and anyhow the words 
“decline and fall” give the clue to it. It is written by Edward 
Gibbon the historian, and he is telling us in his Autobiography 
how he came to write the great history which has made his 
name immortal. Gibbon has been in my thoughts lately. I 
often have occasion to go to Putney, now a suburb of London, 
where he was born. I see the church at the end of Putney 
Bridge, close to which he resided as a little boy, and the river 
which he must have contemplated. Resided, contemplated: 
I use those pompous words on purpose, for even as a little boy 
Gibbon was not playful or frisky. I cannot imagine him bowling 
his hoop down Putney High Street, or fishing for sticklebacks 
in the Thames. But I can imagine him “residing” there, and 
thus he comes into my thoughts. 

I also think of him because I have been rereading the Decline 
and Fall and have been trying to find parallels between the col- 
lapse of the Mediterranean civilization which he there describes 
and the apparent collapse of world civilization today. I have 
not found many parallels, but I do think it strengthens our 
outlook occasionally to glance into the past, and to lift our 
eyes from the wave that threatens to drown us to the great 
horizons of the sea of history, where personal safety no longer 
signifies. Gibbon is a great navigator of the sea of history — 
the greatest whom this country, or perhaps any, has produced — 
and his work has the majesty, the precision and the reliability 
of a well-built ship; I had almost added “the poetry and the 
beauty of a ship”, though it is not, strictly speaking, beautiful. 
Because of my visits to Putney and because of this graver reason 
I am chatting about him now. 

After a sickly childhood at Putney, and an unsatisfactory 

157 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


term at Oxford, Gibbon led a very happy life as well as a diligent 
one. His health improved, he made good friends — particularly 
Lord Sheffield, who edited the Autobiography — he worked un- 
ceasingly, and after the moment at Rome which he has just 
described he worked according to a plan. Study and amusement 
were to him the same thing: he did not split his life into “work” 
and “recreation”, which is what most people do and have to do 
today; he belonged to the eighteenth century, and he has all 
the stateliness and the sanity of that limited but admirable age. 
He died just as the industrial era was starting. I don’t think 
he would have understood it, and it certainly could not have 
produced him. Later historians, such as Macaulay or Carlyle, 
are always fussing about something or other — worrying about 
the underdog or preaching the gospel of work. Gibbon never 
fusses. He is an aristocrat. The underdog never unduly dis- 
tresses him, and he never preaches the gospel of work, because 
work to him was the same as amusement; he often interchanges 
those two words, which we regard as opposites. In the house 
of his friend Lord Sheffield, or in his own house in Switzerland, 
unremitting, unperturbed, he pursued his congenial task, and 
as the great history went on, and was published volume after 
volume, he began to realize that to this delightful labour another 
delight might be added, namely posthumous fame; which has 
indeed been granted to him. Although the Decline and Fall 
came out nearly two hundred years ago, it is still the leading 
authority on its period. Macaulay and Carlyle need correcting 
and supplementing, but the history of Gibbon stands firm. 
This is an amazing achievement. He is read because of his 
accuracy to fact and his sound historical judgement; not merely 
because he is a master of style. 

Now this success — this command over his material and over 
the circumstances of daily life — had to be paid for. Everything 
has to be paid for, and Gibbon paid by curtailing his passions. 
He was not an ardent character, he disapproved of enthusiasm, 
he disliked religion, and the raptures of lovers moved him either 
to ribaldry or to contempt. Once he, too, had been in love, 
with a Swiss girl, but his father had disapproved, and sensible 
young Edward, seeing storms ahead, had given her up without 
difficulty. “I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son” is the famous 
phrase in which he records this. He could be affectionate and 
grateful — to Lord Sheffield, to the rather tiresome old aunt who 
had been good to him when he was a boy at Putney — but he 

158 



GIBBON AND HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

never developed his emotions. For this he has been blamed. 
But, if you develop your emotions, for that also you have to 
pay — everything has to be paid for, and he would have impaired 
the particular qualities that made him great. To me he remains 
an attractive character, despite his formalism and worldliness. 
I like to think of him not only writing and reading at his desk, 
but in society, fashionably dressed, for he was quite the beau, 
and shaped like a balloon, for he was extremely fond of good 
food and became plump. The balloon was supported on little 
legs which twinkled and turned with immense rapidity as Gibbon 
bowed right and left to the company, and it supported in its 
turn a face of quite unusual ugliness. Yes! Poor Edward was 
excessively plain. Once he was taken to see an old French lady 
who was blind and was accustomed to pass her hands over the 
faces of visitors, to realize their appearance. When she touched 
Gibbon’s face, the old lady was so startled by what she felt that 
she exclaimed: “Mais c’est une mauvaise plaisanterie.” She 
could not believe it was a face at all. No doubt Gibbon was 
sensitive over this — people the shape of balloons often are. But 
he had many recompenses. He had wisdom, learning, good 
taste, tolerance, and he lived in an age when those qualities were 
appreciated, as they are not today. We could not have a Gibbon 
today. Our conditions forbid it. The war says no. Totalitarian- 
ism says no. The social conscience also says no. For good and 
for evil our faces are turned away from the eighteenth century 
which he adorned and exemplified. Our historians are either 
fanatics or scientists, and he was neither. He was a man of letters, 
equipped for evoking and interpreting the past. The great ship 
of his genius ploughs seas which, according to theorists, should 
lie beyond his range, and we can only thank the human star that 
this is so, that he lived, and lived just when he did. 

His Autobiography is one of the minor masterpieces of its cen- 
tury. It is a formal, self-conscious work, written to be read, it is 
intelligent, entertaining, dignified, and often amusing: there is, 
for instance, a devastating account of contemporary Oxford, 
which Cambridge at all events has never forgotten. Here’s a 
passage from it where Cambridge also gets involved. He is 
discussing which is the senior foundation — a question which still 
agitates their dons. And he calmly remarks: 

Perhaps in a separate annotation I may coolly examine the fabu- 
lous and real antiquities of our sister universities, a question 


*59 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


which has kindled such fierce and foolish disputes among 
their fanatic sons. In the meanwhile it will be acknowledged 
that these venerable bodies are sufficiently old to partake of 
all the prejudices and infirmities of age. The schools of Oxford 
and Cambridge were founded in a dark age of false and bar- 
barous science [Gibbon was blind to the achievements of 
medievalism] ; and they arc still tainted with the vices of their 
origin. Their primitive discipline was adapted to the education 
of priests and monks; and the government still remains in the 
hands of the clergy, an order of men whose manners are re- 
mote from the present world, and whose eyes are dazzled by 
the light of philosophy. 

He spent but fourteen months at Oxford, “the most idle and 
unprofitable of my whole life”, and the Autobiography goes on 
to describe his expulsion because he had lapsed into Romanism, 
his salutary travels on the Continent, the growth of his mental 
powers, his service in the militia (an invaluable practical training 
for the future historian), his residences in Switzerland, and the 
slowly maturing achievement of the Decline and FalL Don’t look 
for gaiety here or for spontaneity, but you will find wit, shrewd- 
ness, and the pardonable weightiness of a man who knows that 
he has genius and has used it properly. The book, by the way, 
is not Gibbon’s own arrangement, but a compilation made by 
Lord Sheffield out of several separate memoirs which he had 
left behind him. Sheffield did his work well, so we are quite 
right, though not quite accurate, in referring to the book as 
Gibbon’s Autobiography, 

I will conclude with another quotation from it, where he 
describes how, twenty-three years after its conception in Rome, 
the colossal enterprise of the Decline and Fall is concluded at 
Lausanne in Switzerland. 

I have presumed to mark the moment of conception : I shall 
now coiruncmorate the hour of my final deliverance. It was 
on the day, or rather night, of the 27th of June, 1787, between 
the hours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last lines of 
the last page, in a summer-house in my garden. After laying 
down my pen, I took several turns in a berceau, or covered walk 
of acacias, which commands a prospect of the country, the 
lake, and the mountains. The air was temperate, the sky was 
serene, the silver orb of the moon was reflected from the waters, 
and all nature was silent. I will not dissemble the first emo- 
tions of joy on recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the 
establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, 

160 



GIBBON AND HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind, by the idea 
that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable 
companion, and that whatsoever might be the future fate of my 
History^ the life of the historian must be short and precarious. 

There is great English, and a great rounded life! It is not our 
English or our life, and it would be useless for us in our twentieth- 
century circumstances to imitate either the style or the conduct 
of Gibbon. We have to carry on differently. But he is a land- 
mark and a signpost — a landmark of human achievement ; and 
a signpost because the social convulsions of the Roman Empire 
as described by him sometimes prefigure and indicate these 
convulsions which shake the whole world today. 

[1942] 


161 



Voltaire and 
Frederick the Great 


Two hundred years ago a Frenchman paid a visit to a German. 
It is a famous visit. The Frenchman was delighted to come to 
Germany, his German host delighted to welcome him. They 
were more than polite to one another, they were enthusiastic, 
and each thought, “I am sure we are going to be friends for 
ever.” Yet the visit was a disaster. They still talk about it in 
Germany today, and they say it was the Frenchman’s fault. 
And they still talk about it in France. And Fm going to talk 
about it now, partly because it makes such a good story, and 
partly because it contains a lesson for us all, even though it 
did happen two hundred years back. 

The Frenchman was Voltaire. People today sometimes think 
of Voltaire as a person who sneered at everything, and made 
improper jokes. He was much more than that, he was the 
greatest man of his age, indeed he was one of the greatest men 
whom European civilization has produced. If I had to name 
two people to speak for Europe at the Last Judgement I should 
choose Shakespeare and Voltaire — Shakespeare for his creative 
genius, Voltaire for his critical genius and humanity. Voltaire 
cared for the truth, he believed in tolerance, he pitied the op- 
pressed, and since he was a forceful character he was able to drive 
his ideas home. They happen to be my own ideas, and like many 
other small people I am thankful when a great person comes 
along and says for me what I can’t say properly for myself. 
Voltaire speaks for the thousands and thousands of us who hate 
injustice and work for a better world. 

What did he do? He wrote enormously: plays (now for- 
gotten) ; short stories, and some of them are still read — especially 
that masterpiece, Candide, He was a journalist, and a pamphlet- 
eer, he dabbled in science and philosophy, he was a good popular 
historian, he compiled a dictionary, and he wrote hundreds of 
letters to people all over Europe. He had correspondents every- 
where, and he was so witty, so up-to-date, so on-the-spot that 
kings and emperors were proud to get a letter from Voltaire and 

162 



VOLTAIRE AND FREDERICK THE GREAT 


hurried to answer it with their own hand. He is not a great 
creative artist. But he is a great man with a powerful intellect 
and a warm heart, enlisted in the service of humanity. That is 
why I rank him with Shakespeare as a spiritual spokesman for 
Europe. Two hundred years before the Nazis came, he was the 
complete anti-Nazi. 

I am so fond of him that I should like to add he had a perfect 
character. Alas, he hadn’t ! He was a bundle of contradictions 
and nerves. Although he loved truth he often lied. Although he 
loved humanity he was often malicious. Though generous he 
was a money-maker. He was a born tease. He had no dignity. 
And he was no beauty to look at cither — a gibbering monkey of a 
man, very small, very thin, with a long sharp nose, a bad com- 
plexion and beady black eyes. He overdressed, as little people 
sometimes do, and his wig was so large that it seemed to extin- 
guish him. 

That is the Frenchman who sets out for Berlin on 25 June 1 750 ; 
the German whom he is about to visit is Frederick the Great, 
King of Prussia. 

Frederick is one of the founders of modern Germany, and 
Hitler has made a careful study of him. He plunged Europe into 
wars to advance his ambitions. He believed in force and fraud 
and cruelty, and in doing everything himself. He had a genius 
for organizing, he preferred to employ inferior men, and he de- 
spised the human race. That is the dividing line between him 
and Voltaire. Voltaire believed in humanity. Frederick did not. 
“You don’t know this damned race of men,” he once exclaimed. 
“You don’t know them. Ido.” He was a cynic, and having had 
a very unhappy childhood he felt till the end of his life that he 
had not been properly appreciated ; and we know how dangerous 
such men can be, and what miseries they can bring upon them- 
selves and others. 

But there was another side to Frederick. He was a cultivated, 
sensitive gentleman. He was a good musician, he had read wide- 
ly, and he had made a careful study of French. He even com- 
posed a number of French poems — they are not good, still they 
serve to show that to him German wasn’t everything. He was 
in this way, more civilized than Hitler. There was no Nordic- 
purity nonsense about him. He did not think that Germany 
was destined to rule the world: he knew that the world is a ^ery 
complicated place, and that we have to live and let live in it; he 
even believed in freedom of speech. “People can say what they 

163 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


like as long as I do what I like” was the way he put it. One day, 
as he went through Berlin he saw a caricature of himself on a wall, 
and all he said was: “ Oh — hang it down lower so that it can be 
seen better.” 

The visit began in a whirl of compliments. Voltaire called 
Frederick “The Solomon of the North”, Frederick declared that 
of all his victorious titles the most precious was Possessor of 
Voltaire. He made his guest a court official, housed him royally, 
gave him a handsome salary, and promised an extra salary to 
his niece, Madame Denis, if she would care to keep house for 
him. (We shall hear more of poor Madame Denis in a minute.) 
Witty conversation, philosophic discussion, delicious food — 
Frederick liked good food, though he was careful to get it cheap. 
Everything seemed perfect — butl Not long after his arrival, 
Voltaire wrote a letter to a friend in France in which the ominous 
li ttle wo rd “But” keeps occurring. ' 

“The supper parties are delicious. The King is the life of the 
company. But. I have operas and comedies, reviews and con- 
certs, my studies and books. But, but. Berlin is fine, the prin- 
cesses charming, the maids of honour handsome. But.” We can^ 
interpret this But. It is the instinctive protest of the free man who 
finds himself in the power of a tyrant. Voltaire, for all his faults, 
was a free man. Frederick had charm and intelligence. But — he 
was a tyrant. 

The visit went wrong shortly. Voltaire did several tiresome 
things. He got mixed up in a shady financial transaction, he 
quarrelled with another Frenchman who was in the King’s ser- 
vice, he drank too much chocolate, and when the King rationed 
him he revenged himself by taking the wax candles out of the 
candlesticks and selling them. All very undignified. And — worst 
of all — he laughed at the King’s French poems. Frederick, like 
Hitler, fancied himself as an artist, and he had often employed 
his guest to polish his verses up. Now he was told that the tire- 
some little monkey was poking fun at him and quoting him all 
over the place — a serious matter this, for some of the poems were 
imprudent, and intended for private circulation only. The 
Solomon of the North was vexed. He thought: “No doubt my 
visitor is a genius, but he is making more trouble than he’s worth, 
and he’s disloyal.” And Voltaire thought: “No doubt my host 
is a mighty monarch, but I would rather worship him from a 
distance.” He left Berlin, after a stay of two years, which had 
gradually become more and more uncomfortable for both parties. 

164 



VOLTAIRE AND FREDERICK THE GREAT 

But that is not the end. The real bust-up was yet to come. 
It occurred at Frankfurt, where Voltaire was waiting for Madame 
Denis to join him. Frankfurt did not belong to the King of 
Prussia. He had no legal authority there at all, but he had his 
“Gestapo” and he worked through them to interfere with per- 
sonal liberty. He discovered that Voltaire had taken away from 
Berlin (it seems by accident) a copy of the wretched French 
poems, flew into a passion and ordered Voltaire’s luggage to be 
searched. As always, he employed second-rate people and they 
went too far. They not only searched Voltaire’s luggage but 
they imprisoned him and bullied him night and day in the hope 
of extracting information which would please their royal master. 
It is an incredible affair, a real foretaste of Nazi methods. Vol- 
taire tried to escape; he was stopped at the gates of Frankfurt 
and dragged back, and Madame Denis, who now arrived to join 
her uncle, was also arrested and ill-treated. Madame Denis was 
a stout, emotional lady, with some pretensions as an actress. She 
was not one to suffer in silence, and she soon made Europe ring 
with her protests. Voltaire’s health broke down and he feigned 
to be more ill than he really was : he ran from his tormentors into 
an inner room and gasped, “Will you not even allow me to be 
sick?” His secretary rushed up to assist him, and Voltaire, 
while making all the motions of vomiting, whispered in his ear, 
“I am pretending! I am pretending!” He loved fooling people; 
he could be mischievous even in his misery, and this is to me an 
endearing trait. 

Frederick saw things had gone too far. Voltaire and his niece 
were released, and in later years the two great men corresponded 
almost as enthusiastically as before. But they were careful not 
to meet, and Voltaire at all events had learned a lesson. Berlin 
had taught him that if a man believes in liberty and variety and 
tolerance and sympathy he cannot breathe the air of the totali- 
tarian State. It all may seem nice upon the surface — but! The 
tyrant may be charming and intelligent — but! The machinery 
may work perfectly — but! Something is missing: the human 
spirit is missing. Voltaire kept faith with the human spirit. He 
fought its battle against German dictatorship two hundred years 
before our time. 

[1941] 


165 



George Crabbe and 
Peter Grimes 


A lecture given at the 
Aldeburgh Festival of 1948 

Before I come to George Crabbe or to “ Peter Grimes” the poem, 
or to Peter Grimes the opera, I must speak of Aldeburgh. 

The situation of this place is curious. A slight rise of the ground 
— ril call it a hill, though the word is too emphatic — projects 
from the fenlands of Suffolk towards the North Sea. On this 
hill stands the church, a spacious Gothic building with very broad 
aisles, so that it has inside rather the effect of a hall. At the foot 
of the hill lies the town — a couple of long streets against which 
the sea is making an implacable advance. There used to be as 
many as five streets — three of them have disappeared beneath 
the shallow but violent waters, the house where Crabbe was born 
is gone, the street that has been named after him is menaced, 
the Elizabethan Moot Hall, which used to be in the centre of the 
place, now stands on a desolate beach. During the past twelve 
months the attack has been frightening. I can remember a little 
shelter erected for visitors on the shingle. Last autumn it was at 
the edge of a cliff, so that fishermen at the high tide actually sat 
in it to fish. This spring it has vanished, and the waters actually 
broke into the High Street — huge glassy waves coming in regu- 
larly and quietly, and each exploding when it hit the shore with 
the sound of a gun. This sort of attack went on a hundred and 
fifty years ago, when Crabbe was alive, but the zone of operation 
lay further out. Today only the hill is safe. Only at the church, 
where he preached, and where his parents lie buried, is there 
security and peace. 

North and south of the hill lie marshes. The marshland to 
the north requires no comment, but that to the south is peculiar, 
and I had it in mind when I called the situation of Aldeburgh 
“curious”. It is intersected by the river Aide, which flows due 
cast — but when it is within fifty yards of the sea it turns due 
south, and does not reach the sea for twelve miles, being divided 
from it by a narrow ridge of shingle. Here again the waves are 

166 



GEORGE GRABBB AND PETER GRIMES 

attacking, and arc trying to break through the barrier that keeps 
them from the river. If they succeed — and they have had some 
success — Aldeburgh will be menaced on its flank, and the valuable 
town grazing-lands will disappear into the slime of the estuary. 

It is with this estuary of the Aide that we arc mainly concerned 
today. It is here, and not on the open sea or the sea-front, that 
the action of the poem of “Peter Grimes” takes place. There 
used to be a little port on the estuary, Slaughden Quay. It was 
important in Crabbe’s day, and was well defined even in my 
own earlier visits to the district. It is now battered and derelict, 
and the sea may wash across into it at the next great storm. Here 
Crabbe worked as a boy, rolling casks of butter about, and much 
he hated it. Hence Peter Grimes set out to fish. The prospect 
from Slaughden, despite desolation and menace, is romantic. 
At low tide the great mud flats stretch. At high tide the whole 
area is a swirl of many-coloured waters. At all times there arc 
birds and low woodlands on the further bank, and, to the north, 
Aldeburgh sheltering among a few trees, and still just managing 
to dominate her fate. 

I wanted to evoke these sombre and touching scenes as best 
I could, in order to give a local habitation and a name to what 
follows. Crabbe without Aldeburgh, Peter Grimes without the 
estuary of the Aide, would lose their savour and tang. Now 
for my story, and the first point I have to make is that Crabbe 
disliked his native town. Born here in 1 754, he grew to manhood 
in straitened circumstances. He was afraid of his odd rough 
father who made him roll the casks about; then he was appren- 
ticed to an apothecary; he hated that too, he couldn’t even handle 
a boat properly, he was no use at all. One grim day in the winter 
of 1 779, he walked to the bleak and cheerless Marsh Hill, gazed at 
a muddy stretch of water called the Leech Pond, and decided to 
clear out. Leaving “these shores where guilt and famine reign”, 
he set out to seek his fortune in London as a poet. He nearly 
died of starvation first, and he was rescued not by his fellow towns- 
men, but by the generosity and insight of Edmund Burke. Burke 
recognized his genius and had faith in his integrity. From that 
moment his fortunes were assured; he abandoned medicine and 
turned to the Church for his profession, took orders, and returned 
to Aldeburgh three years later in the imcxpected role of a tri- 
umphant curate. 

Again he was unhappy, and no wonder. For he had* not con- 
cealed his opinions on hk home-town, and had indeed described 

167 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


it to Lord Shelburne as a venal little borough in Suffolk. He 
knew what he thought of his parishioners, and they, for their 
part, regarded him as an ill-tempered intellectual who, having 
failed to heal men’s bodies, proposed to interfere with their souls. 
The emotions are recorded with which he mounted the pulpit 
of Aldeburgh church for the first time. “I had been unkindly 
received in the place — I saw unfriendly countenances about me, 
and, I am sorry to say, I had too much indignation — though 
mingled, I hope, with better feelings — to care what they thought 
of me or my sermon.” The tension only lasted a few months. 
He got transferred. He was appointed domestic chaplain to the 
Duke of Rutland, and moved away inland into Leicestershire, 
where he was happy or anyhow cosy. But his distaste for his native 
town had been confirmed. Everything seemed to incommode 
him there. Even his hopes of discovering a new species of 
trefoil on the beach were dashed. “ If I can once more shake off 
my complaints,” he writes, “and gain a little life and spirit, I 
verily believe that I shall publish an account of my plant.” But 
Sir Joseph Banks reported that the trefoil had been catalogued 
already. And when, towards the end of his life, he indulged in 
a visit of sentimentality what were the results ? 

Becclcs is the home of past years, and I could not walk through 
the streets as a stranger. It is not so at Aldborough: there a 
sadness mixes with all I see or hear; not a man is living whom 
I knew in my early portion of life; my contemporaries are 
gone, and their successors are unknown to me and I to them. 

Becclcs, Leicestershire, Wiltshire — anywhere else. It is rare to 
discover in his writings a reference to his native town that is 
neither melancholy nor satirical. 

Crabbe’s antipathy to his birthplace was to play an essential 
part in the creation of “Peter Grimes”. It was not a straight- 
forward antipathy. It was connected with a profound attraction. 
He might leave Aldeburgh with his body, but he never emigrated 
spiritually; here on the plane of creation was his home, and he 
could not have found a better one. This Borough made him a 
poet, through it he understood Suffolk, and through East Anglia 
he approached England. He remains here, however far he seems 
to travel, whatever he says to the contrary. His best work de- 
scribes the place directly — The Village^ The Parish Register ^ The 
Borough — and its atmosphere follows him when he attempts 
other themes. 


168 



GEORGE CRABBE AND PETER GRIMES 


The few dull flowers that o’er the place are spread 
Partake the nature of their fenny bed ; 

Here on its wiry stem, in rigid bloom, 

Grows the salt lavender that lacks perfume; 

Here the dwarf sallows creep, the septfoil harsh. 

And the soft slimy mallow of the marsh ; 

Low on the ear the distant billows sound, 

And just in view appears their stony bound; 

No hedge nor tree conceals the glowing sun. . . . 

Dull, harsh, stony, wiry, soft, slimy — what disobliging epithets, 
and yet he is in love with the scene. And the love becomes 
explicit in a prose footnote which he appends to the passage. 

Such is the vegetation of the fen when it is at a small distance 
from the ocean; and in this case there arise from it effluvia 
strong and peculiar, half-saline, half-putrid, which would be 
considered by most people as off ensive, and by some as danger- 
ous ; but there are others to whom singularity of taste or associa- 
tion of ideas has rendered it agreeable and pleasant. 

The sights and the sounds are not beautiful, the smells are putrid, 
yet through the singularity of his taste and the associations they 
bring to him he loves them and cannot help loving them. For 
he had the great good luck to belong to a particular part of 
England, and to belong to it all his life. 

This attraction for the Aldeburgh district, combined with that 
strong repulsion from it, is characteristic of Crabbe’s uncomfort- 
able mind. Outwardly he did well for himself, married money 
and ended up as a west-country pluralist. Inwardly he remained 
uneasy, and out of that uneasiness came his most powerful poems. 
It is natural to remember Wordsworth in connection with him. 
They were contemporaries, and they had this in common, that 
they were regional and that their earliest impressions were the 
most durable. But there the resemblance between them ends. 
Wordsworth — his superior genius apart — had a power of harmon- 
izing his experiences which was denied to Crabbe. He could 
encircle them with the sky, he could overawe them with tremen- 
dous mountains. Crabbe remains down amongst them on the 
flat, amongst pebbles and weeds and mud and driftwood, and 
within earshot of a sea which is no divine ocean. Thus based, 
he is capable of considerable achievements, and the contradictory 
impulses possessing him generated “Peter Grimes”. 

We know how this sombre masterpiece originated. \Vhen 
Crabbe was trying to be a doctor he came across an old fisherman 

169 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


who had had a succession of apprentices from London and a 
sum of money with each. The apprentices tended to disappear, 
and the fisherman was warned he would be charged with murder 
next time. That is the meagre material upon which a poet’s 
imagination worked. According to Edward Fitzgerald — who 
was a persistent student of Crabbe — the fisherman’s name was 
Tom Brown. Anyhow, he is transformed into Peter Grimes. 

The poem occurs in the series of The Borough^ which was 
written for the most part away from Aldeburgh, and finished 
there in 1809. As a narrative, it is one of the best of the series, 
and it is prefaced by quotations from Macbeth and Richard III 
which fix the emotional atmosphere and warn us that the 
murdered apprentices will live again. It opens with a father- 
motive; like Crabbe himself, Peter Grimes hates his own father 
— a pious old fisherman who makes him go to church — and 
breaks away from him abusively, on one occasion striking him 
on the head and felling him. Murder is not done, but the wish 
to murder has been born. 

The father groan’d — “If thou art old” said he, 

“And hast a son — thou wilt remember me.” 

Peter was indeed to beget sons, though not in the flesh. For 
the present he gets drunk, and when his father passes away 
indulges in maudlin grief. It is a prelude to the main tragedy. 

Freed from control, the young fisherman proposes to enjoy 
life — “the life itself” he has called it exultantly — and gambles 
and drinks. But money is required for such joys, so he develops 
into a poacher and trespasser, a rustic Ishmacl. Then come the 
sadistic lines : 

But no success could please his cruel soul. 

He wish’d for one to trouble and control; 

He wanted some obedient boy to stand 
And bear the blow of his outrageous hand ; 

And hoped to find in some propitious hour 
A feeling creature subject to his power, 

and the first of the apprentices arrives, a product of the eighteenth- 
century workhouse system. Everyone knows he is being mis- 
handled and starved, no one protects him, 

and some, on hearing cries, 

Said calmly, “Grimes is at his exercise” — 

a phrase which is effectively introduced into Peter Grimes the opera. 

170 



GEORGE CRABBE AND PETER GRIMES 

Thus lived the lad in hunger, peril, pain, 

His tears despised, his supplications vain: 

Compell’d by fear to lie, by need to steal, 

His bed uneasy and unbless’d his meal. 

For three sad years the boy his tortures bore, 

And then his pains and trials were no more. 

The second apprentice follows, also with premium, and he too 
dies. Peter’s explanation is that he was playing on the main 
mast at night, fell into the well where the catch was kept, and 
hit his head. The jury exonerate him. The third apprentice is 
a delicate well-mannered child, who rouses the townsfolk to pity 
and charity and whom Peter dares not beat too hard. He dis- 
appears during a voyage at sea. Peter had his fish and wanted 
to sell it in the London market. They encountered a storm, the 
boat leaked, the boy fell ill, and before Peter could make harbour 
both the fish and the boy had died. Such anyhow was Peter’s 
account. But 

The pitying women raised a clamour round. 

And weeping said, “Thou hast thy ’prentice drown’d.” 

The mayor forbade him to hire any more apprentices (as in the 
opening of the opera) and none of his neighbours would help 
him, so henceforward he carried on his trade alone, and melan- 
choly invaded him. 

Now begin the depths and, I would add, the flats of the poem 
— using “flat” in no derogatory sense, but to indicate the glassy 
or muddy surface upon which the action now proceeds and 
through which at any moment something unexpected may 
emerge. Nothing is more remarkable, in the best work of Crabbe, 
than the absence of elevation. As a preacher, he may lift up his 
eyes to the hills. As a poet, he was fascinated by 

The bounding marsh-bank and the blighted tree; 

The water only, when the tides were high. 

When low, the mud half-cover’d and half-dry; 

The sun-burnt tar that blisters on the planks. 

And bank-side stakes in their uneven ranks; 

Heaps of entangled weeds that slowly float 
As the tide rolls by the impeded boat. 

That is what attracts him — flatness — and upon it the most tragic 
of his poems deploys. The idea of regeneration, so congenial 
to Wordsworth and the Lake District, does not appeal* to this 
son of the estuary. Those who sin on the lines of Peter Grimes 


171 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


must sink and sink — incapable even of remorse, though not of 
fear, incapable of realizing the sun except as a blistering heat, 
and incapable of observing the stars. 

When tides were neap, and, in the sultry day, 

Through the tall bounding mud-banks made their way . . . 
There anchoring, Peter chose from man to hide, 

There hang his head. . . . 

Here dull and hopeless he’d lie down and trace 
How sidelong crabs had scrawl’d their crooked race; 

Or sadly listen to the tuneless cry 
Of fishing gull or clanging golden-eye. . . . 

He nursed the feelings these dull scenes produce. 

And loved to stop beside the opening sluice. . . . 

The hanging of the head, the dullness, the nursing of dull- 
ness, the lying down motionless in a motionless boat, the dreary 
contemplation of nature in her trickling exhaustion, the slow 
downward-bending paralysis of the once active man — they 
present what the poet too had experienced and the clergyman 
had combated or ignored. They spring from the attraction and 
from the repulsion exercised on Crabbe by the surrounding 
scenery, from the dual feeling which I analysed earlier. 

We must consider Crabbe’s sensitiveness to dreams in a 
moment — we arc not quite in the world of dreams yet. Peter 
is still sane and awake. The only sign of abnormality is that he 
avoids three particular places in the estuary of the Aide; when 
near them he rows away whistling until they are out of sight. 
It would seem that here and there the surface of the water is 
thinner than elsewhere, more liable to be broken from below. 
He becomes a solitary, seeks men and curses them, and they curse 
him and he retires to his boat. For a whole winter no one sees 
him. Next summer he is afloat as before, but no longer fishing. 
He is gazing, hypnotized by the three places in the stream. 
“ Dost thou repent ? ” he is asked. The words have a crystallizing 
effect and shatter him. Quitting his boat, he goes raving mad, 
rushes over the countryside, and is caught and carried to the 
parish infirmary. Here, half nightmare, half vision, the story 
culminates. Grimes himself takes up the tale in the sedate 
eighteenth-century couplets and the formal diction which Crabbe 
could not and perhaps did not desire to forgo. 

“I’ll tell you all,” he said, “the very day 
When the old man first placed them in my way; 



OEOROE GRABBE AND PETER GRIMES 

My father’s spirit — he who always tried 
To give me trouble, when he lived and died — 
When he was gone, he could not be content 
To see my days in painful labour spent. 

But would appoint his meetings, and he made 
Me watch at these, and so neglect my trade. 

“ ’Twas one hot noon, all silent, still, serene. 

No living being had I lately seen ; 

I paddled up and down and dipp’d my net, 

But (such his pleasure) I could nothing get . . . 

And so I sat and look’d upon the stream, 

How it ran on, and felt as in a dream: 

But dream it was not ; no ! — I fix’d my eyes 
On the mid stream and saw the spirits rise; 

I saw my father on the water stand, 

And hold a thin pale boy in either hand ; 

And there they glided ghastly on the top 
Of the salt flood, and never touch’d a drop: 

I would have struck them, but they knew th’ intent, 
And smiled upon the oar, and down they went. 

“Now, from that day, whenever I began 
To dip my net, there stood the hard old man — 

He and those boys : I humbled me and pray’d 
They would be gone; — they heeded not, but stay’d: 
Nor could I turn, nor would the boat go by, 

But gazing on the spirits, there was I : 

They bade me leap to death, but I was loth to die: 
And every day, as sure as day arose, 

Would these three spirits meet me ere the close; 

To hear and mark them daily was my doom, 

And ‘ Come, ’ they said, with weak, sad voices, 
‘come.’ 

To row away with all my strength I try’d. 

But diere were they, hard by me in the tide. 

The three unbodied forms — and ‘Come,’ still 
‘ come,’ they cried. . . . 

“There were three places, where they ever rose, — 
The whole long river has not such as those, — 

Places accursed, where, if a man remain. 

He’ll see the things which strike him to the brain; 
And there they jfxiade me on my paddle lean. 

And look at them for hours; — accursed scene! 

When they would glide to that smooth eddy-space. 
Then bid me leap and join them in the place; 


173 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


And at my groans each little villain sprite 
Enjoy’d my pains and vanish’d in delight. 

‘‘In one fierce summer-day, when my poor brain 
Was burning hot and cruel was my pain, 

Then came this father-foe, and there he stood 
With his two boys again upon the flood; 

There was more mischief in their eyes, more glee 
In their pale faces when they glared at me: 

Still did they force me on the oar to rest, 

And when they saw me fainting and oppress’d. 

He, with his hand, the old man, scoop’d the flood. 

And there came flame about him mix’d with blood ; 

He bade me stoop and look upon the place, 

Then flung the hot-red liquor in my face; 

Burning it blazed, and then I roar’d for pain, 

I thought the demons would have turn’d my brain. 

“ Still there they stood, and forced me to behold 
A place of horrors — they cannot be told — 

Where the flood open’d, there I heard the shriek 
Of tortured guilt — no earthly tongue can speak : 

‘All days alike! for ever!’ did they say, 

‘And unremitted torments every day’ — 

Yes, so they said:” — But here he ceased and gazed 
On all around, affrighten’d and amazed . . . 

Then dropp’d exhausted, and appear’d at rest, 

Till the strong foe the vital powers possess’d ; 

Then with an inward, broken voice he cried, 

“Again they come,” and mutter’d as he died. 

Crabbe is explicit on the character of Peter Grimes, and 
appends an interesting note. “The mind here exhibited is one 
untouched by pity, unstung by remorse, and uncorrected by 
shame.” And he shrewdly observed that “no feeble vision, no 
half-visible ghost, not the momentary glance of an unbodied 
being, nor the half-audible voice of an invisible one, would be 
created by the continual workings of distress on a mind so 
depraved and flinty.” Grimes is tough, hard and dull, and the 
poet must be tough with him, tougher than Shakespeare had to 
be with Macbeth, who possessed imagination. He must smash 
him up physically with penury, disease and solitude, and then 
place indubitable spectres in his path. Physical sufferings have 
their eflfcct on any nature: 

and the harder that nature is, and the longer time required 

m 



GEORGE CRABBE AND PETER GRIMES 

upon it, so much the more strong and indelible is the impres- 
sion. This is all the reason I am able to give why a man of 
feeling so dull should yet become insane, and why the visions 
of his distempered brain should be of so horrible a nature. 

The poet sees his literary problem very clearly. A sensitive 
Grimes would mean a different poem. He must make him a 
lout, normally impervious to suffering, though once suffering 
starts it is likely to take a strange form. 

Grimes in a normal state would be inarticulate. He can only 
address us effectively through nightmares, and skilful use is 
made, at the close, of that dream state with which Crabbc was 
himself too familiar for his own happiness. He recognized its 
value for his work. He once told Lady Scott, Sir Walter’s wife, 
“ I should have lost many a good hit, had I not set down, at once, 
things that occurred to me in my dreams,” and he kept a lamp 
and writing-material by his bedside in order to record them be- 
fore they were forgotten. Many of them were unpleasant. He 
suffered himself from a recurrent one, induced perhaps by opium. 
He would dream that he was teased by boys who were made 
of leather so that when he beat them they felt nothing. “The 
leather lads have been at me again,” he would remark in fatigued 
tones at the rectory breakfast table. Dreams of all types occur 
in his work. “The World of Dreams” and “Sir Eustace Grey” 
are terrifying. There is a poignant one at the close of “The 
Parting Hour” where a desolate man dreams that his wife and 
children are with him in an enchanting tropical land. And there 
is a nightmare, rivalling Grimes’s in terror and exceeding it in 
subtlety, where an imprisoned highwayman, condemned to death 
for murder, dreams that he is innocent and is walking in exquisite 
weather down to the sea with the girl he loves, and with his 
sister. The three young people pass through the lanes and over 
the sheep-walk, where “the lamb browses by the linnet’s bed”, 
cross the brook and behold 

The ocean smiling to the fervid sun — 

The waves that faintly fall and slowly run — 

The ship at distance and the boats at hand; 

And now they walk upon the sea-side sand, 

Counting the number and what kind they be, 

Ships softly sinking in the sleepy sea. 

On it flows, with a gentleness and sensuousness unusual with 
Crabbe, in order that the awakening may be the more terrible. 
They admire 


>75 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


those bright red pebbles that the sun 
Through the small waves so softly shines upon; 

And those live lucid jellies which the eye 
Delights to trace as they swim glitt’ring by; 
Pearl-shells and rubied star-fish they admire, 

And will arrange above the parlour-fire, — 

Tokens of bliss ! — 

Then the nightmare asserts itself, the surface is broken : 

“Oh! horrible! a wave 
Roars as it rises — save me, Edward! save!” 

She cries : — Alas ! the watchman on his way 
Calls, and lets in — truth, terror, and the day! 

This famous passage is more dramatic and more sensitive than 
anything in ‘ ‘ Grimes ’ ’ . More human values are involved, so there 
is more to lose, the sudden reversal in fortune is only too typical 
of sleep, and the wave joins the horrors of imagination to those 
of fact. We arc back in the prison which we had forgotten. 
Truth re-establishes itself, the more relentless for its withdrawal 
when the criminal walked with those he had loved and lost. 

As for Peter Grimes. He has gone to Hell and there is no 
doubt about it. No possibility of mercy intervenes. A simple 
rough fisherman over whom some would have sentimentalized, 
he is none the less damned, the treacherous flatness of the estuary 
has opened at last. He will sink into the fire and the blood, the 
only torments he can appreciate. His father has brought him 
to disaster — that is his explanation, and the father-motive which 
preluded the tragedy has re-cmerged. To push the motive too 
hard is to rupture the fabric of the poem and to turn it into a 
pathological tract, but stressed gently it helps our understanding. 
The interpretations of Freud miss the values of art as infallibly 
as do those of Marx. They cannot explain values to us, they 
cannot show us why a work of art is good or how it became good. 
But they have their subsidiary use: they can indicate the condi- 
tion of the artist’s mind while he was creating, and it is clear 
that while he was writing “Peter Grimes” Crabbe was obsessed 
by the notion of two generations of males being unkind to one 
another and vicariously punishing unkindness. It is the grandsire- 
grandson alliance against the tortured adult. 

The other motive — also to be stressed cautiously — is the 
attraction-repulsion one. Peter tries to escape from certain places 
on the stream, but he cannot, he is always drifting back to them. 

176 



OEOROE CRABBE AND PETER GRIMES 

Crabbc is always drifting back in the spirit to Aldcburgh. The 
poet and his creation share the same inner tension, the same desire 
for what repels them. Such parallels can often be found between 
the experiences of a writer and the experiences of a character 
in his books, but the parallels must be drawn lightly by the 
critic, for the experiences have usually been transformed out of 
recognition and the moral climate changed. To say that Crabbe 
is Peter Grimes would make that prosperous clergyman indignant 
and would be false. To say that Crabbe and Grimes share cer- 
tain psychological tensions might also make him indignant, but 
it would be true. 

And now let us consider Peter Grimes the opera; or rather the 
libretto, for we shall not be much concerned with its music. 

The circumstances of its creation are remarkable. The com- 
poser, Benjamin Britten, a Suffolk man, was away in the United 
States, and read there with feelings of nostalgia the poems of 
Crabbe. They recalled his own country to him, they inspired 
him, and commissioned by the American conductor Kousse- 
vitzky he wrote the opera. It has been accepted as a great 
work; it has become a national possession and been performed 
all over the world, and it is a work for which I myself have deep 
affection. 

Now since it bears the same title as the poem people often 
assume that it is Crabbe set to music. This is not the case. The 
opera diverges widely from its original, and it is interesting to 
examine the changes which the composer and his librettist, 
Mr Montagu Slater, have thought fit to make. They had every 
right to make them. A composer is under no obligation to stick 
to his original; his duty is to be original himself. Sometimes 
he chooses to stick. Verdi’s Otello, for instance, follows Shake- 
speare closely — the only addition being the credo introduced for 
lago. Bizet’s Carmen^ on the other hand, diverges from Prosper 
M< 5 rim 6 e’s story of the same name, and Donizetti’s Lucia di 
Lammermoor owns only the mildest obligations to Sir Walter 
Scott. 

The plot of Peter Grimes and the character of its hero arc 
closely interwoven. The curtain rises on the trial of Peter for 
murdering an apprentice. The scene is the Moot Hall, and the 
date is 1830 — about fifty years later than the presumable date for 
the action of the poem. Peter is let off with a warning, and we 
gather that he was innocent. Ellen Orford, the schoolmistress 


177 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


— who is introduced, with much alteration, from another poem — 
believes in him, and he hopes to make good and marry her; he 
hates being an outcast. Then the scene changes to the beach and 
to that music of the Workaday sea which always brings tears 
into my eyes, it is so lovely, the townsfolk gather, the pleasant 
time-serving rector (borrowed from another poem) passes. Auntie 
and her dubious if desirable nieces appear out of another poem 
at the entrance of the Boar. Peter cannot get help with his boat, 
people shun him, but he hears of a possible apprentice in the 
Ipswich workhouse, and Ellen goes off to fetch the boy. The 
weather turns to storm and the scene to the interior of the Boar. 
There, in a terrific moment, Peter bursts in on the riotous com- 
pany. There is silence and he meditates aloud on the Great 
Bear, the Pleiades, the impossibility of deciphering fate upon the 
revolving sky. He is revealed as the exception, the poet. The 
uproar resumes, Ellen enters with the new apprentice, and Peter 
takes him “home” amongst cries of derision. 

“Home” is an upturned boat on the edge of a cliff. Much 
has happened by the time we reach it — much gossip about 
Peter’s brutality and some evidence of it. The ill-assorted pair 
enter — the boy terrified, Peter now irritable, now gentle, trying 
to make friends, dreaming of marriage with Ellen. The neigh- 
bours are heard approaching to look into the rumours of cruelty. 
Peter, enraged, hurries the boy off to their fishing, pushes him 
out through the cliff door, he slips, falls, and is killed. The next 
act is a manhunt; there is evidence of murder, voices shout 
through the fog. Peter realizes that all is up. He launches his 
boat, sails out into the darkness in it, and sinks it. The new 
day begins and with it the music of the workaday sea. Some- 
one sights a sinking boat, but it is too far off to be rescued or 
identified, and no one is interested, and all is as if nothing had 
ever been. The chorus gathers, the curtain falls slowly, the 
opera is over. 

It amuses me to think what an opera on Peter Grimes would 
have been like if I had written it. I should certainly have starred 
the murdered apprentices. I should have introduced their ghosts 
in the last scene, rising out of the estuary, on either side of the 
vengeful graybeard, blood and fire would have been thrown in 
the tenor’s face. Hell would have opened, and on a mixture of 
Don Juan and the Freischiitz I should have lowered my final 
curtain. The applause that follows is for my inward ear only. 
For what in the actual opera have we? No ghosts, no father, 

178 



OEOROE GRABBE AND PETER GRIMES 

no murders, no crime on Peter’s part except what is caused by 
the far greater crimes committed against him by society. He is 
the misunderstood Byronic hero. In a properly constituted 
community he would be happy, but he is too far ahead of his 
surroundings, and his fate is to drift out in his boat, a private 
Viking, and to perish unnoticed while workaday life is resumed. 
He is an interesting person, he is a bundle of musical possibilities, 
but he is not the Peter Grimes of Crabbe. 

You remember the words in which Crabbe describes his hero. 
He is hard and dull, flinty, impervious to sensations, and it was 
a problem to Crabbe to make such a character suffer. “The 
mind here exhibited is one untouched by pity, unstung by 
remorse, and uncorrected by shame.” And he gazes downward. 
Whereas Grimes in the opera is sensitive, touched by pity, stung 
by remorse, and corrected by shame; he needs no apparitions to 
remind him of his errors, and he lifts up his eyes to the stars. We 
leave him with the knowledge that it is society who sinned, and 
with compassion. 

The community is to blame. That is one implication of the 
opera, and Mr Montagu Slater in his Introduction suggests that 
the implication is to be found in Crabbe himself and that the 
poet-clergyman was ahead of his times. And the date of the 
action is put forward into 1830, the year of revolution, and 
extracted from the placid eighteenth century where it was 
originally embedded. There is benefit in this operatically, but 
it cannot be justified from Crabbe. Crabbe satirized society. 
He did not criticize it. Doctrinally he was a Tory parson, 
equally averse to idleness and to enthusiasm, and he ascribed 
human miseries to human frailties and to fate. As his biographer 
Huchon remarks, “he had nothing of the radical or rebel in him. 
To make him a sort of early Cobbett is to take a strangely mis- 
taken idea of his character and his ideas. . . . He remained 
essentially bourgeois.” The implication of a social problem com- 
bines with the changes in the action and the transformation of 
Grimes’s character to make the opera very different from the 
poem. The first time I heard it, this worried me rather. I 
knew the poem well, and I missed its horizontality, its mud. 
I was puzzled at being asked by Grimes to lift up my eyes to the 
stars. At the second bearing my ^difficulty disappear^, and I 
accepted the opera as an independent masterpiece, with a life 
of its own. 

It is time to leave both the opera and the poem behind. I 
o 179 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


would like in conclusion to go beyond them and revert to the 
obscure person who lived at Aldeburgh about two hundred 
years ago, and whose name was perhaps Tom Brown. He got 
apprentices from Londbn, they kept disappearing, and he was 
warned. That is all we know. But he caught the attention of 
a young surgeon who afterwards specialized in poetry and turned 
him into Peter Grimes. Two centuries pass. A young musician 
out in America reads “Peter Grimes”. It catches his attention, 
and inspires him to create an opera. Is that how works of art are 
born ? Do they all depend on a Tom Brown ? No, they depend 
on the creative imagination which will find a Tom Brown 
somewhere or other, and will accrete round him until he is 
transformed. So I do not suggest that Aldeburgh need raise a 
statue to this obscure and unattractive citizen. Still, the fact 
remains that he happens to be genesis in the whole affair. He 
is the first step in a series of creative events which has produced 
your Festival, and if he could ever see anything and if he can 
sec anything now he is feeling surprised. 

[>948] 


180 



Bishop Jebb’s Book 


One hundred and thirty-six years ago, John Jebb, who was 
afterwards Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe, bought a 
folio-size notebook. He paid ninc-and-ninepence for it to William 
Watson and Son, Booksellers, 7 Capcl Street, Dublin, which was 
not dear, for it contains six quires of paper. And what paper ! 
Paper manly yet seductive, paper which persuades the lagging and 
corrects the errant pen, sustains the heavy ink, retains the light, 
tempts even the twentieth century into calligraphy. In its depths 
there are two watermarks : one of Britannia, seated in a shield 
beneath a crown, the other of the date 1799 beneath intertwined 
initials. The reference must be to the union of England and 
Ireland, and when the Bishop bought the book he must have felt 
that that little problem at all events was solved. The book is 
bound in boards and strong quarter-calf, but the leather recently 
cracked, like much else in my time, and one of the covers is now 
loose. This would distress me, if there was anyone to whom I 
could hand on the book, as it has been handed down to me. But 
there is no one, and even if I were a clergyman with grandchildren 
there would Be no one. Bequests are coming to their natural end, 
traditions are retiring to that insecure fortress, the museum. 
There is not time for the personal memory-sogged past, and there 
is not room for it either. If after my death — which interests me less 
than his interested the Bishop — the book should survive, the im- 
portant thing in it will be the blank pages. Still delightful to 
write on, they may profit posterity. 

The name of the Bishop of Limerick has resounded greatly in 
my family, but rather megaphonically, like the name of a station 
shouted out by too energetic a porter. One was so near it that 
one could not hear it. The bishop, the bishop, the blessed 
bishop, the bishop’s concern, the bishop’s regret, his just dis- 
pleasure, his condescension, his escape from drowning at Rostre- 
vor, his paralysis alleviated at Leamington, all boomed against 
each other and echoed internally. And when one got outside the 
family vault there was an even greater obstacle : universal silence. 

181 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


No one had heard of the Blessed Bishop. Scholars would verify 
him, ecclesiastics recall him after anxious thought, but he seemed 
quite lost to general fame. Like a train which has been dispatched 
in a particular direction,’ he could be located in that direction and 
that only. That direction now seems to be me. I have inherited 
his book. Opening it, I read the initial entry. “Began this 
common-place-book at Cashel, Wednesday Novem®** ii, 1804” 
— in red ink. Signed “John Jebb” in black ink. And pencilled 
“Afterwards Bishop of Limerick” by my grandfather. 

That was just about the time those two got to know one 
another. They were both young, strange as it seems— Jebb not 
thirty. Never averse to the great, he was hanging around the 
Archbishop of Cashel, and, never idle, he was composing a ser- 
mon for the Dublin Magdalen Asylum. But he put all aside when 
my grandfather, who was a student at Trinity, Dublin, called, 
and he spoke to him of the superiority of Euripides over Sophocles, 
of Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Drydcn, Pope, all through the 
night, A friendship began, which only ended with his death, 
thirty years later. When he became bishop my grandfather be- 
came his chaplain, courier and trumpeter. When my grandfather 
wanted to marry, it was the bishop who conducted negotiations 
for him, just as it was the bride’s sisters who conducted them for 
her. Notes flew between the ponderous parties and have been 
preserved ; the milieu by this time is Clapham and the Clapham 
Sect. After enormous fuss and copious admonition, the marriage 
was approved. It was a happy one, and the bride had the addi- 
tional joy of living under the bishop’s roof and nursing him when 
he ailed. In his will he left them his silver shoe-buckles. So it is 
alleged. As a matter of fact, they got a little more, this book and 
others, for instance, but not much more. That made no difference 
to their devotion. My grandmother, who was the daughter of a 
banker, may have had her private thoughts, but she did not 
voice them, and my grandfather, who was absolutely unworldly 
and who became increasingly provincial, went on from height to 
height. He wrote his hero’s life, he edited his sermons, he pub- 
lished his letters, he called his own first-born after him, and so 
strong was the force of his will that when he died in his turn the 
echoing name persisted for a while, and the bishop, the bishop, 
the blessed bishop could be heard even in the present century by 
those who held their ear to the ground. 

The first two pages of the commonplace book are ruled for 
an index: a beautif^ piece of work. letter of the alphabet 

182 



BISHOP JEBB’S book 

has a section, and each section is subdivided into five, one for 
each vowel. When the bishop entered a thought, he underlined 
the first word in it, and referred appropriately in the index to 
its page. Thus Pa in the index has references to pages 6 and I2, 
where “Pastoral Care” and “Parnel’s beautiful Hymn to Con- 
tentment” are discussed. Po 14 directs us to the Poor in Spirit. 
The index is beautiful rather than effective, and in continuing 
the book I have disdained it. He did not write in the book much, 
and has only filled up eighteen of its pages. His unworthy suc- 
cessor (as I must tediously term myself) has filled over a hundred 
pages, so perhaps it is my book. But two hundred pages remain 
virgin, so it is still nobody’s. I know what my grandfather would 
think of my sacrilegious temerity. The sacred volume has passed 
unsullied from Cashel to Limerick, to Clapham, to quiet rectories 
in Kent and Essex, and here I am scribbling notes about Marx in 
it, or copying extracts from Madame de S6vign6. I don’t know 
what the iDishop himself would think : he is too far away ; indeed I 
cannot imagine him taking any notice. The spiders’ threads one 
throws backwards into the past seldom stick. As a rule, they en- 
counter complete non-recognition, and return to one. 

What do I think of him ? Well, he had a beautiful handwriting, 
anyhow, when he took trouble, small and crystalline; some of his 
notes at the time of his chaplain’s marriage arc marvellous — one 
can scarcely see the piety for the penmanship. And when he hurt 
his right hand he learned to write almost as beautifully with his 
left. Also there is a portrait of him which I find sympathetic. It 
is a sketch by George Richmond, and shows his head sagging for- 
ward over a desk upon some papers: the forehead is large, the 
mouth and chin are planed away by foreshortening. But this is 
not much to go on, and eulogies add nothing. He was of good 
family and clever, a scholar and a gentleman, he was efficient at 
church business, he kept in touch with influential patrons in 
Dublin and London. If there is anything Irish in him, or of Ire- 
land, it does not appear. Attended by his faithful satellite, he 
moves complacently through tragic skies. 

But it is amusing to see how the book progresses. While not 
keeping up the index, I have followed the bishop in underlining 
the first word of every entry, and in ruling a line, clumsily of 
course, to the left of every page. His spirit also saves me from 
scandal: we both tend to be non-intimate on the subjects of 
letters and life, and to saddle Seneca or Ibsen with anything 
which we do not quite want to say. It would do his reputation 

183 



THE ARTS IN ACJTION 


no harm if the whole collection was published, and mine no good. 
His last five entries are: Human Life, Platonists and Stoicks, 
Miracles, Philosophy, Miracles. My first five entries are: Com- 
monplaces, Isolation, Resentment, Change of Plan, Moll Flanders. 
I will conclude by transcribing his entry “Journal or Diary”: 

The utility of keeping one has [been] dwelt upon by many per- 
sons remarkable for great attainments and piety. Dr Johnson 
said that a full and unreserved one would be a very good exer- 
cise, and would yield great satisfaction when the particulars 
were faded from remembrance. He began one himself twelve 
or fourteen times but never could persevere. The great thing 
to be recorded, he said, is the state of your own mind ; and you 
should write down everything that you remember; for you 
cannot judge at first what is bad or good; and write immedi- 
ately while the impression is fresh for it will not be the same a 
week afterwards. Pleasant for a man to review his own mind. 

I should wish at no very distant day to begin a Journal. 
The great danger will be that I may be insensibly tempted to 
deal disingenuously with myself in it. If I could write an 
honest report of my own mind it would under God’s blessing 
do me good. I date this that if I feel indisposed to put my 
present resolution in hand [?] I may be shamed into it. 

Jany25, 1806. J.J. 

A Journal was duly started, but it has perished. 

[1940] 


184 



Henry Thornton 


On March the 31st and April the ist an exhibition will be held at 
Glapham, where lived my great-grandfather, and in the school 
that has been named after him : the Henry Thornton School. The 
exhibition will be partly commercial and technical, but it will 
have an historical side, including a collection of prints of Old 
Glapham; Battersea Rise, my ancestor’s home, will be included, 
and he and the life he stood for will be offered again to the public, 
it may be for the last time. 

What sort of life was it? Let his friend and executor. Sir 
Robert Inglis, testify: “His piety was fervent, and yet sober; 
his liberality was magnificent and yet discriminating; his charity 
was large and yet not latitudinarian ; his self-denial was rigorous 
yet unobtrusive.” This is a very fair estimate. Like the man 
himself, it does not go too far. There is also extant a charming 
portrait of him by Hoppner, but this does not go too far either; 
calmness, moderation and restraint dominate in its well-ordered 
scheme. Mr Thornton’s chin is firm without ferocity, his mouth 
ascetic without fanaticism, his forehead intelligent without fire, 
in his right hand is a parliamentary bill. The restless modem 
mind, skimming over all these solidities, finds nothing to laugh 
at, nothing to condenm, and nothing to die for, and be- 
comes unsympathetic, partly through envy. Here is neither 
a sinner, a mystic nor an artist — types which the modern 
mind can comprehend, and in whose presence it does not feel 
rebuked. Here is only a successful banker, an extensive 
philanthropist, a devout Christian, an affectionate husband 
and a judicious father, a loyal friend, an upright citizen, an 
incorruptible M.P.: 

Nor place or pension e’er got he 
For self or for connection; 

We shall not tax the Treasury 
By Thornton’s re-election. 

Sound: but not exciting; not even inspiring. 

185 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


He has two claims on the notice of posterity: a volume of 
Family Prayers, and an essay on Paper Credit. 

The prayers were composed from time to time, to be read 
aloud to his own household at Battersea Rise. In the end, there 
were over sixty of them, one for each morning and evening in the 
month. With characteristic modesty, he never thought of pub- 
lishing them, but they were copied by friends and circulated 
among other members of the Clapham Sect, and twenty years 
after his death Sir Robert Inglis gathered them into a volume. 
This had an enormous success. Between 1 834 and 1 854 it ran into 
thirty-one editions, and within living memory our family were 
still receiving royalties from its sales. The prayers arc of the 
usual evangelical type. They consist of vague contrition, vague 
thankfulness, and somewhat precise instructions to God on the 
subject of His own attributes. They borrow their cadences from 
the Book of Common Prayer and from unimaginative recollec- 
tions of the Bible, all the splendours and the strangenesses of sacred 
literature are absent, and it is difficult to understand why their 
smooth rhetoric was preferred when so much better was to hand, 
and why the use of them became in the mid-nineteenth century 
the distinctive sign of true Evangelism : 

O God, who hast commanded us in Thy word to call upon 
Thy name, and hast declared that Thou hcarcst and answerest 
the prayers of those who make their supplications unto Thee, 
we desire now to offer up our petitions, under a deep sense 
of our unworthincss, and of Thy manifold and great mercies. 

This level is consistently maintained through all sixty prayers; 
the prose never rises, never falls. “Manifold and great mercies” 
indeed ! What can the words have conveyed to the reader or to 
the family and the servants who listened to them from opposite 
ends of the great library at Battersea Rise? To us they mean 
nothing at all. We get something quite different out of them: 
no meaning, but an aroma, the aroma of a vanished society, the 
sense of well-to-do people on their knees, the solid chairs into 
which the elbows dig, the antimacassared backs against which 
the foreheads rest, the voice of the master of the house, confront- 
ing his Maker in a monotone, and, if the hour be morning, the 
great virgin breakfast table, clothed all in white like a bride. 
For three generations it was a problem to religious Englishmen 
whether the breakfast dishes should come in before prayers and 
so get cold, or should come in after, which meant a wait, and an 

186 



HENRY THORNTON 


unpleasant sense of hanging in a void between two worlds. I do 
not know which decision my great-grandfather took, but there is 
a story that in later years his daughter Marianne read the same 
passage out of the Bible again and again, because she was 
paralysed by the sight of the cat eating the ham, and felt unable 
to stop either the cat or herself. 

Family prayers went out with the family. When the children 
were limited and the servants went into factories and the death- 
duties cut property to pieces, these daily gatherings of piety and 
plenty came to a natural end. Little houses have been built today 
upon the noble lawns of Battersea Rise, and upon the site of its 
great library which William Pitt designed, and those little houses 
listen to the religious service on the wireless, if they listen at all. 
Distracted by earthly chores, they hear from Broadcasting House 
the voice of an enlightened clergyman who tries to make religion 
realistic and definite and to give spiritual tips; he vibrates like 
a weathercock to international troubles, he grapples with daily 
trivialities, he enhalocs the ticket-collectors, bus-conductors, 
waitresses and L.G.C. ambulances whom we encounter during the 
drab suburban day; he even glances at pet animals. A modern 
St Francis, he believes in detail. The Henry Thornton prayers 
avoid detail, they generalize, they are a discipline and an institu- 
tion, their well-worn phrases, “manifold mercies” and the rest of 
it, would interfere with the general effect if they bore too clear- 
cut a meaning. The Glapham Sect listened, rose from its knees, 
ate, and then made money — made as much as ever it could, and 
then gave as much as it could away. The activity in either direc- 
tion was immense. Thanks to the economic conditions of the 
times, wealth rushed down these worthy people’s throats from 
mom to eve, and not being psychologists they thought it would 
have no effect upon their souls if they purged themselves promptly. 
The Devil is subtler than that. He, like Ghrist, understands the 
deceitfulncss of riches: the deceitfulness which many a bitter 
example now brings to the light. Wealth always fattens the per- 
son who swallows it, no matter how promptly he purges, and it is 
significant that in spite of his fabulous charities Henry Thornton 
left all his nine children extremely well off, and that some of his 
money has even descended to myself. Very little; the last trickle 
of the golden stream before it expires in the sands of taxation. 
Still, enough to remind me that there was an age when, to get 
xich and to be good were harmonious. 

A similar hope is held by the Quakers, to whom the Glapham 

187 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


Sect has sometimes been compared. They hold it with better 
reason, because they have what the Claphamites lacked : a touch 
of mysticism, a sense of tjic unseen, and a capacity for martyrdom. 
These impulses, whatever their objective value, do purge the 
soul, in a way which alms-giving and self-examination cannot; 
they do lift the participant into a region outside money, whereas 
charity only keeps man running to and fro, from his business to 
his deserving cause, and then back to his business. He relieves 
distress, which the miser doesn’t, but he, too, is bound on the 
, wheel. This indifference to the unseen seems to me the great de- 
fect in my great-grandfather’s set, and the reason why they have 
not made a bigger name in history. It came out in everything — 
in the books they collected, in the letters my great-aunts wrote to 
one another, and in the comments which they made upon life, 
which are surprisingly dry for people so pious. Poetry, mystery, 
j)assion, ecstasy, music, don’t count. 

Henry Thornton’s second claim on the notice of posterity is 
his treatise on Paper Credit. It has lately been re-edited, with 
an introduction by an eminent economist, Professor Hayek. 
Both his father and his brother were directors of the Bank of 
England, and he married the daughter of a wealthy Yorkshire 
merchant. Thanks to his training and to his ability, he became 
one of the leading bankers of his age, in close touch with the pro- 
vincial banking system which was then springing up, and also in 
touch with developments in London and with questions of foreign 
exchange and foreign trade. His treatise, which he published in 
1802, had a great effect at the time, and was to be praised by 
John Stuart Mill, but it was eclipsed by the work of Ricardo, and 
was almost forgotten by the end of the century. At the time of the 
War it was rediscovered by economists in America, and accord- 
ing to Professor Hayek it is important for students of the present 
situation; he speaks of Thornton’s acumen, great intellectual 
power, and width of outlook, and states that the treatise extends 
far beyond the occasion which evoked it, and is a major contribu- 
tion to the science of banking. 

To the general public the theory of Paper Credit is as remote 
as Family Prayers, and I wonder with what emotion, if with any, 
they will see the name of my ancestor when they visit the Clapham 
exhibition. They will remember him, perhaps, as the man who 
helped Wilbcrforce to free the slaves — a great work, to be sure, 
and a work which now needs all doing over again. For the world 
has not progressed as Henry Thornton hoped. The evi ls in human 

188 



HENRY THORNTON 


n ature, which he r ealized , and thciivils in commercialism, which 
h e^coulH have combined to pull it down, and the 

religious remedies he proposed seem today formal and trifling. 
But they worked well enough in his own circle and on himself. 
His manuscript diary is in my possession, and I will transcribe 
from it the final sentence, which was written only a few months 
before his death in 1815, at the age of fifty-five: 

I think if it should please Gk)d to gild the evening of the life 
of my most beloved wife with a few more rays of comfort, 
sustaining her delicate body and making our children more 
and more evidently pious, which would be one great joy to 
her soul, if He should also afford to me that measure of success 
in business which shall enable me to prepare a good and safe 
station for my successor in the Banking house in which I am 
concerned, and if He shall also keep me from falling into any 
new temptations and dangers, I may consider myself as highly 
favoured by Providence, for how few can I discover round 
me who have half my prosperity, or who can look with so 
little reason for apprehension on a numerous family of cliildren. 


William Arnold 


Oakfieldy or Fellowship in the East is not a masterpiece, yet I read it 
with intense interest, for the reason that its author was Matthew 
Arnold’s brother, Matthew Arnold is of all the Victorians most to 
my taste : a great poet, a civilized citizen, and a prophet who has 
managed to project himself into our present troubles, so that when 
we read him now he seems to be in the room. I took up this novel 
by his brother with a curiosity that has not been disappointed. 
It is a strange, quixotic, disillusioned work and it hands out no 
bouquets, either to Indians or to Englishmen working in India. 

Their father, the famous headmaster, helped to start the present 
public-school system, and laid stress on character and on indi- 
vidual morality. He represented the middle-class conscience, and 
his children grew up convinced that life meant duty, and hopeful 
that Christianity meant truth, William Arnold was born in 1828 ; 
he was educated at Rugby and Oxford, spending his holidays in 
the Lakes where the Arnolds had a much-loved house, and he de- 
cided to serve humanity in India. Desire for adventure may have 
contributed, for he went to India as a soldier, as an ensign in the 
58th Native Infantry. Then he changed over to the Civil Service. 
He became Assistant Commissioner to the Punjab, and finally 
Director of Education there in 1853. While still Assistant Com- 
missioner, he published Oakjield under the pseudonym of “Pun- 
jabi”. The novel was criticized as an anonymous attack on an 
honourable body of men (how well one knows the phrase!), so he 
issued a second edition under his own name. His hero is, like 
himself, educated at Oxford, has also a home in the Lakes, also 
joins the Indian Army in his twenties, and also switches over to 
the administration. William Arnold and Oakfield are indeed the 
same person. 

The story makes depressing reading. Oakfield lands at Cal- 
cutta full of enthusiasm and the desire to serve, but he gets no 
pleasure out of India, except from the initial thrill of tropical 
scenery. He works hard at languages and “ passes ” in Hindustani 
and Persian, but gains no understanding of native life, which he 

190 



WILLIAM ARNOLD 


regards with a sort of respectful despair. All the talk as to the 
magnificent work of civilizing Asia through British influence in 
India is humbug, he concludes ; and it has grieved many generous 
hearts before now to find it so. Until the point of divergence be- 
tween eastern and western mentality has been discovered, co- 
operation is impossible. And, though Christianity may be true, 
to preach it to India is to begin at the wrong end : physical im- 
provement first, then intellectual, then spiritual; that seems the 
natural order of things. Oakfield is honourable, intelligent and 
critical — a typical Arnold combination — and he does not shrink 
from remarking, “The Manchester folks want cotton; and when 
cotton is wanted, England is ready to begin and consider its duty 
to India.” 

His immediate problem, however, is military life and social 
intercourse with his fellow officers. He is first stationed up the 
river at Hajeepoor in a bad regiment. The drinking and gam- 
bling, the rudeness to the natives, the general lack of propriety and 
decency keep him in his bungalow as much as possible, and when 
he does dine in the mess a brother officer sings an improper song 
and he walks out as a protest. This episode moved me to irreverent 
laughter, and I am not surprised that the young man was un- 
popular in his regiment. Nor is he surprised. He is perfectly 
willing to suffer for his priggishness, since it is part of the high and 
consistent standard maintained by him in consequence of his 
education and home life. He is then transferred to Meerut, to a 
regiment with better traditions, and he gives us a long descrip- 
tion of his voyage with congenial companions up the river. The 
description ignores the river, Allahabad at the moment of the 
Magh Mela being dismissed with the briefest reference. What 
interests Oakfield and his fellow passengers is the state of the 
English Church, the Tractarian Movement at Oxford, the possi- 
bilities and the dangers of reform, the positions of Roman 
Catholicism and of Dissent. India is passed with a puzzled sigh, 
with a sense of ignorance and impotence. The new regiment is 
reached, and the most exciting part of the novel begins. For 
though the officers arc gentlemanly and smart they too arc 
affected by the general laxity of European morals in the East; 
they arc shallow and worldly, they get into debt, and, for all their 
talk of honour, they are unchivalrous to women. Oakfield makes 
the acquaintance of a Civil Servant, Middleton, and of his sister, 
and the moment comes when Miss Middleton’s name is mentioned 
too familiarly in the mess. He protests to the senior officer 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


present, and obtains no satisfaction. He is then insulted by Miss 
Middleton’s traducer, and he ought by the unwritten code of 
honour to challenge him to a duel. He refuses to do so, and when 
he is challenged he refuses to fight. He is brave enough to endure 
the charge of cowardice. All this part of the novel is elevated and 
fine; the writing remains flat, for William Arnold was not an 
artist. Finally Oakfield loses his temper, turns on his tormentors 
in an unconventional way and castigates one of them with a horse- 
whip. There is an appalling row, followed by a ponderous court- 
martial. Oakfield is acquitted, in view of the provocation he has 
received and of the illegality of duelling, but his position is no 
pleasanter in his new regiment than it had been in his old one 
after the improper song. He carries on with a high hand. 

Then comes the Second Sikh War, and at the battle of Chillian- 
walla he rescues the regimental standard, which has been cap- 
tured, and rehabilitates himself. He carries on as before. The 
approval of people whom he does not approve means nothing to 
this stiff-necked young man. He resigns his commission and be- 
comes a magistrate, and he works on and on, longing to get 
home. We are occasionally given glimpses of his home, and 
the English Lakes gleam in the pages of the book with a radiance 
denied to the Ganges. Finally he is invalided to England, and 
there is a poignant passage where as he leaves Calcutta he passes 
a boatful of young men arriving, enthusiastic about their careers 
as he had once been about his. He returns to his family, dying — 
although he docs not know it — ^and with long-drawn Victorian 
pathos tlie story closes. One day he inveighs against his official 
drudgery and cries: 

“ Shall I again seek a more busy life, and going on patiently, 
taking a bushel of falsehood for a grain of truth, casting my 
bread upon the waters, resume my work in India? Oh!” he 
exclaimed suddenly. cannot do it.” 

He is told that he will not have to do it. His upright arid career 
is at an end. He will never have to see India again. 

Even today, when conditions both in India and in England are 
so different, Oakfield is a disquieting book. It is so sincere, and it 
states so fearlessly truths which are unwelcome to the governors 
and to the governed. If it is priggish, it sticks to its guns; and if it 
is ineffective it is well aware of its limitations. The characters are 
longwinded and the action cumbrous. But it has the Arnold in- 
tegrity. It is the work of a man whose brother was a genius, and 
who was akin to that brother morally. 


192 



WILLIAM ARNOLD 


By a final touch of irony, the novel is even more autobiographi- 
cal than its author supposed. It is prophetic as well as retro- 
spective, for William Arnold was destined to fizzle out in much 
the same way as his hero. He wearied of his work in India; his 
wife died there; and, like Oakfield, he was invalided home; he too 
longed to see Westmorland and the Lakes, but, less fortunate here, 
he died as he was being carried off the boat at Gibraltar. He was 
only thirty-one. He passes out of history. But at the moment of 
his disappearance he is transfigured. Matthew Arnold takes him 
up and glorifies him. Two of his poems, the “ Stanzas from Carnac ” 
and “A Southern Night”, are an elegy on his dead young 
brother, and should be read as an epilogue to Oakjield. “A 
Southern Night” is more than an elegy, for it faces up to the 
tragedy of the inhibited career. There had been no splendour for 
poor William Arnold. He and his wife — they arc “spent ones of a 
work-day age”, they arc all too typical of our time, and it is 
strange, thinks the poet, that they should have been buried so 
romantically — she by the Himalayan heights, he by these 
Mediterranean waters. 

Strange irony of fate, alas, 

Which, for two jaded English, saves, 

When from their dusty life they pass. 

Such peaceful graves! 

In cities should wc English lie, 

Where cries are rising ever new. 

And men’s incessant stream goes by — 

We who pursue 

Our business with unslackening stride. 

Traverse in troops, with care-fill’d breast, 

The soft Mediterranean side. 

The Nile, the East, 

And sec all sights from pole to pole, 

And glance, and nod, and bustle by, 

And never once possess our soul 
Before wc die. 

Not by those hoary Indian hills. 

Not by this gracious Midland sea 
Whose floor tonight sweet moonshine fills. 

Should our graves be. 

Thus is William Arnold glorified — ^hc and Oakfield, whom he 
had made in his image — ^and the eternal freshness of poetry 


193 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


descends upon his punkah-swept life. There is certainly some 
beauty in die world — the poet knows it and connects the dead 
brother with that beauty: 

And what but gentleness untired, 

And what but noble feeling warm, 

Wherever shown, howe’er inspired, 

Is grace, is charm? 

What else is all these waters are, 

What else is steep’d in lucid sheen. 

What else is bright, what else is fair. 

What else serene ? 

Mild o’er her grave, ye mountains, shine ! 

Gently by his, ye waters, glide ! 

To that in you which is divine 
They were allied. 


[1944] 


*94 



‘"Snow” Wedgwood 


The interesting correspondence between Robert Browning and 
Julia Wedgwood features a broken friendship and provides yet 
another example of the leisurely misunderstandings in which the 
nineteenth century indulged. Our ancestors were well equipped 
for the game of epistolary cross-purposes. They had plenty of 
time, plenty of servants, and they nourished grievances, cherished 
remarks and entertained regrets with a lavishness which is impos- 
sible for their hustled descendants. They had ample opportuni- 
ties for refining, expanding, correcting, and impairing personal 
relationships. We may feel, in our slapdash way, that they might 
have been happier if they had written less, but we must admit 
that they gave full marks to an important subject. “Love, to 
most of us, is quite as much the discipline, as the refreshment, of 
life,” writes Miss Wedgwood, and Browning, though proner to 
paganism, is obliged to agree. 

He and she got to know one another in 1864, shortly after 
Elizabeth Barrett’s death. Browning was already famous; Julia 
(“Snow”) Wedgwood was still young. She had an assured posi- 
tion as a member of a respectable, cautious, high-minded middle- 
class family which managed, somehow or other, to include un- 
convcntionality in its make-up; the unconvcntionality of the 
Wedgwood clan is notable and very English, and saved it from 
being stuffy. As the great-granddaughter of Josiah Wedgwood 
the potter, as the granddaughter of Sir James Mackintosh and the 
niece of Charles Darwin, she represented a sound intellectual 
tradition. Though diffuse, earnest and exacting, she was not a 
prig, and she and the great poet could correspond comfortably. 
Some of his letters to her arc very good; in one of them he re- 
writes Enoch Ardeuy in another he re-creates the sufferings of Keats. 
There was mutual sympathy, they were happy, they were be- 
coming intimate. Too intimate? Anyhow, she suddenly broke 
off the connection, and declined to sec Mr Browning any more. 
She gives her reasons, with circumspection and delicacy, in a 
letter of which three versions exist, and she takes all the blame 


195 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


(if blame there is to be) upon herself. Browning is frightfully nice, 
as men often are immediately after a snub, but he feels a fool, and 
their correspondence dies. 

Two years later (they thought it was three years, but it was 
actually two) they began to write to one another again, chiefly 
on the high topic of The Ring and the Book. Julia has hardened in 
the interval, she is no longer ecstatic, and, as a critic who will 
presently produce a work called The Moral Ideal, she deplores 
Mr Browning’s preoccupation with Evil and chides him for it 
carefully. “You know,” she writes, “you owe us an adequate 
translation of what your wife was to you.” He replies rather 
irritably that he owes no such translation to anyone; she insists 
that he does, and that ends it. Mixed up with their literary and 
philosophic bout is their personal muddle — they rake up the past 
and try to understand it better. Just why had they broken ? Had 
Miss Wedgwood heard a report of something which Browning 
had said or had not said about her, and what in cither case was it ? 
Why did Browning suppose she had written to him as she did 
write ? They reached no conclusion except a respectful peevish- 
ness. 

Mr Richard Curie, who edits this correspondence, provides an 
introduction which makes “Snow” much too portentous and 
bleak a female. She was not like that — at least she was not like 
that when I knew her in her later days. Her deafness made her 
formidable for strangers, but she was polite and cordial, extremely 
modest about her work, and decidedly gay. Her support of the 
Woman’s Movement, like her contributions to the Spectator under 
Hutton, has of course been forgotten ; the world hasn’t the time. 
But she had fine qualities, of the heart as well as of the head, and 
they ought to be recorded; she could, for instance, make a close 
friendship outside her own class, and though it is easy enough to 
do this today, owing to the social break-up, it was not easy to do it 
in the nineteenth century, when the Victorian fabric was still in- 
tact, and drawing-rooms seemed drawing-rooms and housemaids 
housemaids for ever. 

[1937] 


196 



William Barnes 


It is surprising that William Barnes has not been more widely 
worshipped. Perhaps there was a touch of pride in his gentleness, 
which led him to conceal himself from notoriety beneath the veil 
of the Dorset dialect. The veil is slight : anyone can lift it after half 
an hour’s reading. Yet it seems to have served his purpose, and 
to have confined him to the audience whom he loved. He should 
have been a popular poet, for he writes of matters which move 
everyone and in a way which everyone can understand. There is 
no mysticism in him beyond the trust that we shall, through the 
goodness of God, be reunited to the dead whom we have loved. 
There is no difficult or disturbing view of society, no crankiness, 
no harshness of diction or thought. He is truly, sweetly, affec- 
tionately, a yes-man, and considering how many worthless yes- 
men are being boosted today as national assets it is surprising 
that he should have been left alone, he a clergyman, he a school- 
master, he of the soil. Propaganda has passed him by. He has 
been left where he wished, to his own people, and to the few out- 
siders who have cared to lift the veil and win an easy and a rich 
reward. To read him is to enter a friendly cottage where a family 
party is in full swing. One misses many of the allusions, one is not 
connected with the party by blood, yet one has no sense of intru- 
sion. The party, like all unsophisticated gatherings, welcomes the 
entire human race. And when, to the jokes and the chatter, there 
is added the scent of the roses at the casement, and the sighing of 
the wind down the lane, and the memory of the past loveliness 
and kindness that are gone — and faith in the future loveliness and 
kindness that will return with the next generation — the effect is 
overwhelming. It is impossible to read a poem like “Weak Hill” 
without tears in one’s eyes. Or rather, if one has not tears in one’s 
eyes at the end of “ Woak Hill” one has not read it. It is im- 
possible to praise the author of “Uncle an’ Aunt” in the balanced 
language of the study. “I shook hands with you in my heart,” 
wrote an old Dorsetshire servant from her London Basement- 
kitchen. Those are the words in which he has to be praised. 


197 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


If, suspicious of SO much amiability, we start pulling him to 
pieces, we discover that contrary to expectation he is a scholar. 
Like A. E. Housman, he knew exactly what he was doing in 
verse, and he knew what others had done. He sang Dorset be- 
cause he had to, but not without premeditation; he was not the 
gifted rustic who smudged some of the effects in Burns. “Woak 
Hill” itself is composed in an elaborate Persian metre, the Pearl, 
and even those who discount its pathos are obliged to admire its 
dexterity. Other poems arc written as Ghazcls, others imitate or 
adapt recondite bardic metres, and all of them have their words 
in the right places. Light words — rose-petals of words, withered 
leaves, red dowst o’ the ridges; but they fall into their places with 
the assurance of marble. 

Sweet Be’mi’ster, that bist a-bound 
By green an’ woody hills all round, 

Wi’ hedges, reachfen up between 
A thousan’ viclds o’ zummer green. 

Where elems’ lofty heads do drow 
Their shc^des vor hay-meakers below. 

An’ wild hedgc-flow’rs do charm the souls 
O’ maidens in their cvenfen strolls. 

The technical skill of ‘‘wild hcdgc-flow’rs” is notable; the verse is 
heavily pulled up by the lightest element in its subject-matter. 
We pause, we put on the brake for flowers, and the scenes through 
which we have been sliding coalesce and arc saved from too much 
smoothness. In the last line the natural speed of the verse is re- 
leased. Forward we go again, after having been clamped by 
beauty. It is amazing that a writer who always puts the heart 
first can so keep his head. His genius worked not by a series of 
happy hits but by using the poetic intelligence, and it is the more 
amazing since his prose intelligence was provincial. He believed, 
for instance, that only Anglo-Saxon words should be employed in 
English, and he wrote a philological grammar in which vowels 
become “breath-sounds”, and consonants “clippings”. To be- 
lieve this and yet to create touching poetry in which Anglo-Saxon 
words arc mainly employed is a unique achievement. 

His life — except for the loss of his beloved wife and for an 
occasional trouble over his school — ^was a very happy one. His 
temperament, though profound, was equable. He was rooted 
where he could grow, and was never assailed by lusts or nerve- 
storms* He could live through the Labourers’ Revolt of 1830 

198 



WILLIAM BARNES 


without its shadows falling across his verse, and he could help 
his neighbour, Colonel Shrapnel, with some mathematical formu- 
lae. Good Colonel Shrapnel was working out a new type of ex- 
plosive. When the railway was extended to Dorchester it vexed 
some people, but he and his pupils found some fine geological 
specimens in the chalk cuttings. Even the new stove so unwisely 
installed at St Peter’s did not function fatally. 

The carbonic acid gas [writes his daughter] which rose from 
beneath the floor of the aisles had first the effect of making the 
little children drop down insensible, and one by one they were 
carried out. Next the more delicate young people succumbed, 
among whom were two or three of William Barnes’s household. 
At length even the strong ones began to suffer, and went out 
in groups, leaving the rector preaching to empty benches, very 
much bewildered to know what was happening, for the heavy 
fumes had not yet reached him in the pulpit. The streets 
were full of groups of suffering people, helping to support 
others more suffering than themselves. One young woman fell 
into a swoon which lasted three hours. . . . 

All this he survived. The little trials of life, like its deeper sor- 
rows, were accepted by him bravely, and with the belief that joy 
must prevail. For the joy beyond death he had the authority of 
his Church ; for joy upon earth he could point to the recurring 
generations of village life : 

Vor daughters ha’ morn^n when mothers ha’ night. 

An’ there’s beauty alive when the fe&irest is dead ; 

As when woone sparklto weave do zink down vrom the 
light, 

Another do come up an’ catch it instead. 

Yet the heart retains its preferences, and joy is compatible with 
personal loss: 

Zoo smile on, happy maidens! but I shall noo mwore 

Zee the maid I do miss under evenfcn’s dim sky; 

An’ my heart is a-touch’d to see you out avorc 

The doors, vor to chatty an’ zee vo’k goo by. 

Out of the goodness of his heart, his muse commends sweetness, 
modesty, innocent mirth, piety, domesticated manliness. He 
never destroys and seldom criticizes, and those who believe that 
no poetry can be great unless it is rebellious will condenm him 
as too Sunday-schoolish. But a muse can attend a Sunday 
school. She disobeys all rules. “There is no art without love,” 


199 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


he wrote. That too is a rule, and therefore not universally 
true, but it is true of his own art. He gathered up all the happi- 
ness and beauty he could see around him, he invented more, he 
poured it out as a contiguous offering upon the countryside, and 
when he was told that the offering would from its nature perish 
he replied: “To write in what some may deem a fast out-wearing 
speech-form, may seem as idle as the writing of one’s name in 
snow of a spring day. I cannot help it. It is my mother tongue, 
and is to my mind the only true speech of the life that I draw.” 

In his old age, as he sat by the fire in the comfortable rectory 
at Came, he heard the garden gate clanging behind some friends 
who had just left him, perhaps for ever. The sound moved him 
to poetry, and he called his daughter and began to dictate “The 
Geate a-vallfen to”. 

In the zunshecn ov our zummers 
Wi’ the hay time now a-come 
How busy wer we out a-vield 
Wi’ vew a-left at hwome. 

When waggons rumbled out ov yard, 

Red wheeled, wi’ body blue, 

And back behind ’em loudly slamm’d 
The geate a-vall^n to. 

When he had finished dictating he paused, and listened to the 
sounds clanging back through the centuries. “Observe that 
word ‘geate’,” he said. “That is how King Alfred would have 
pronounced it, and how it was called in the Saxon Chronicle^ 
which tells us of King Edward, who was slain at Gorfe’s geate.” 
He paused again and continued: “Ah! if the Court had not been 
moved to London, then the speech of King Alfred of which our 
Dorset is the remnant — would have been — the Court language of 
today.” 

William Barnes had not many regrets, but this was one of them. 

[1939] 


200 



Three Stories by Tolstoy 


Three short stories by Tolstoy — namely The Cossacksy The Death 
of Ivan Ilyitch and The Three Hermits — may help us towards an 
understanding of him. 

They are very different, these stories. The Cossacks is an early 
work, full of adventure, it swings ahead, it’s about war and love 
and mountains and ambushes, and it takes place at the foot of 
the Caucasus. The Death of Ivan Ilyitchy written later, is a story 
of illness and suffering indoors, where we never breathe the fresh 
air. The Three Hermits (also a late work) is a folk-tale about some 
Holy Men who were so stupid that they could not even learn the 
Lord’s Prayer. 

The three stories, although so different, have one thing in 
common. They all teach that simple people arc best. That was 
Tolstoy’s faith. It took various forms at various times of his life and 
led him into all sorts of contradictions — sometimes he believed 
in fighting, sometimes in non-violence and passive resistance, 
sometimes he was a Christian, sometimes he wasn’t, was some- 
times an ascetic, sometimes a voluptuary, but the idea that simple 
people arc best underlies all his opinions from start to finish. 
He was himself far from simple — one of the most complex and 
difficult characters with whom the historian of literature has to 
deal, he was an aristocrat, an intellectual, a landowner who 
thought property wrong, he was ravaged with introspection and 
remorse. But that’s his faith, simplicity. 

In one of his earlier revolts against society he had retired to 
the Caucasus and joined the Russian Army there. At that time 
conditions were primitive, and savage tribes would descend from 
the mountains to raid the lowlands to the north. To check them 
the Russian Government subsidized the Cossacks, who were al- 
most equally wild. The Cossacks lived in their own villages, but 
were a military organization who manned outposts and cooperated 
with the regular army. They were independent and charming, 
they loved violence and pleasure, and the women as well as the 
men went free. The life warmed Tolstoy’s imagination, and is 


201 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


responsible for his first masterpiece. The Cossacks is loosely written 
and the plot is simple. A young Russian officer is stationed in a 
village and falls in love with a Cossack girl, Marianka. She is be- 
trothed to a wild local youngster, who has made good by killing a 
tribesman. There are complications, and, just as the Russian thinks 
he has won the girl over, the young Cossack is desperately wounded 
by the tribesman’s brother; Marianka turns away from the officer 
in fury and returns to her own people, whom she had been 
tempted to desert. Thus epitomized, the plot sounds thin and 
stagy, but it is vivified by the character-drawing, by the wealth of 
incident, and by the splendid descriptions of scenery. It’s a 
story of youth, written by a young man. 

Yes, this is the kind of man I am [says one of the Cossacks]. 
I am a hunter and there isn’t another hunter in the regiment 
like me. I can find and show you every kind of animal and 
bird — what they are and where they are, I know all about 
them. And I have got dogs and two guns and nets and a mare 
and a falcon; got everything I want, thank God! You perhaps 
may become a real hunter but don’t boast of it. I will show 
you everything. That’s the kind of man I am! I will find the 
scent for you. I know the beast. I know where his lair is and 
where he goes to drink or lie down. I will make a shooting- 
hut and I will sit there all night and keep watch for you. What 
is the use of sitting at home? One only gets warm and gets 
drunk. And then the women come and make a row, and one’s 
angry. Whereas there — you go out and you smooth down the 
reeds and you sit and watch as a brave young fellow should. 
You look up at the sky and see the stars: you look at them and 
guess the time. The wood stirs and you hear a little noise, and 
a boar comes out to roll in the mud. You hear how the young 
eagles cry and how the cocks or the geese in the village answer 
them — geese only till midnight of course. All this I know. 

The Cossacks was published in 1863. It made a great sensation in 
Russia. He followed it with War and Peace and Anna Karenina^ 
and by the time he wrote The Death of Ivan Ilyitch he was famous. 

Ivan Ilyitch is a successful public servant who rises to become 
a judge. He is a decent fellow — he has had to pull strings to get 
on, of course, but everyone has to do that — if you’re in the Civil 
Service yourself you realize that, don’t you ? He married, and for 
love. Romance doesn’t last, of course, and by the time he and his 
wife are middle-aged they quarrel a good deal. That’s not un- 
usual — ^if you yourself are middle-aged you’ve experienced it per- 
haps. When he becomes a judge he t^cs a charming house at 


S02 



THREE STORIES BY TOLSTOY 

St Petersburg. He is interested in the house, and supervises its 
decorating, climbs on a ladder to show a workman how to hang a 
curtain; he slips and in saving himself knocks his side against the 
corner of a picture frame. The bruised place aches a little, but 
the discomfort soon passes ofl', and that’s nothing, is it ? He went 
on with his worldly and respectable life, attended the courts, got 
in with the best people, gave parties. He had a terrible row with 
his wife over some cakes. She called him a fool because he had 
ordered too many and he threatened her with divorce. You know 
the sort of thing. Still, it passed. The only trouble was — he 
didn’t feel quite well. There was a nasty taste in his mouth at 
times, his temper got worse, and there was an uncomfortable 
feeling — not exactly a pain — in his side, where he had banged it 
against the picture frame. He is persuaded to consult the doctor, 
who diagnoses — cither a loose kidney or appendix trouble. He 
resumes his daily life — but the pain gets worse. 

I won’t inflict on you further details of this gruesome story — 
the most powerful Tolstoy ever wrote. The end is — agonizing 
death, death embittered by Ivan Ilyitch’s knowledge that he is in 
everyone’s way, and that they will be thankful when he is gone, 
and by the polite pretence around him that he is going to recover. 
In this bitterness there is one compensation. Among his servants 
is a young peasant called Gerasim, whose job it is to do the rough 
work in the house. Gerasim is strong, good-tempered and un- 
sophisticated, and spends his time in doing things for other people 
without making any fuss. “We shall all die, so what’s a little 
trouble?” says Gerasim. And Ivan Ilyitch discovers before tl^ 
end that something is wrong with his life : unlike Gerasim he has 
lived only for himself — even when he was in love with his wife it 
was for the sake of his own pleasure, and that’s what has been 
wrong. The illumination comes, and at the supreme moment he 
understands. “In the place of death there was light.” 

In The Death of Ivan Ilyitch Tolstoy criticizes mode m civi liza- 
tion. In The Three Hermits he shows \^al:^Tvifizatibn necdsT 
^X^ishop, an excellent man, is on a voyage, and hears of an 
island where three hermits live, saving their souls. He deter- 
mines to visit them, and finds them indeed holy and sincere, but 
so ignorant that they do not even know the Lord’s Prayer. He 
teaches them, but they are so stupid that they have the greatest 
difficulty in learning it; they try again and again, one gets it 
right, another gets it wrong; however, the bishop is patient, and 
does not re-embark until the lesson is learned. He has the 


203 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


satisfaction of leaving the hermits in a row on the shore, saying 
the Lord’s Prayer fairly accurately. By now it is night and the full 
moon has risen. The ship continues her course, and in the middle 
of the night something is seen following her rapidly over the sea. 
It is the three hermits. They have forgotten the Lord’s Prayer, 
and they arc running over the surface of the waves to ask the 
bishop to teach them again. 

You will see now what I mean by saying Tolstoy believes in 
simple people. And he believed in a different sort of simplicity 
at various times in his life. When he was young, and himself a 
bit of a rip, he believed in the Cossacks, because they were spon- 
taneous and loved animal violence and pleasure. In The Death of 
Ivan Ilyitch he has shifted his affection to the Russian peasant, 
Gerasim, who is placid and imperturbable and unselfish. And in 
The Three Hermits he recommends a third type — the saint who is 
an imbecile in the world’s judgement, but walks on the water 
through the powers of the spirit. Tolstoy was inconsistent. Here 
arc some of his inconsistencies, and they laid him open to attack. 
But he never wavered in his central faith : simplicity. 

Do you yourself believe in simplicity as a cure for our present 
troubles ? And, if so, how do you think simplicity can be worked 
in a world that has become industrialized? Tolstoy’s outlook 
was agricultural: he never realized the implications of the 
machine. 

[1942] 


204 



Edward Carpenter 


Edward Carpenter was born at Brighton one hundred years ago. 
Few people recall him today, and those who do probably dismiss 
him as a crank. But he was a remarkable fellow, lovable, charm- 
ing, energetic, courageous, possibly great, and he was once an 
inspiration in the world of labour. He deserves commemoration. 

He came of respectable upper-middlc-class parentage. He 
grew up in stodgy comfort, with no conception of the lives of the 
poor, and he set forth on what promised to be a typically Vic- 
torian career. He went to Cambridge, choosing Trinity Hall as 
his college because it was “so gentlemanly”, read mathematics, 
rowed, became a Fellow and took orders. Here a little hitch 
occurred. He had had the religious doubts appropriate to his 
period, and after he was a clergyman they increased and he was 
physically ill, and felt that something deeper than his conscious- 
ness was pushing him out of the Church: “YouVe got to go . 
you’ve ^ot to go,” something said, and he went. 

His expeli^ce; so far, was not unusual. Other thoughtful and 
decent young men would become curates in the hope of doing 
good and then have to be unfrocked, to the dismay of their families. 
Leslie Stephen is another example. What was unusual with 
Carpenter was that his difficulties were only partly theological. 
With him it was really a case of social maladjustment. He was not 
happy in the class into which he had been born. He wanted to 
live and work with the manual labourers. As soon as he got clear 
of the Church he realized this, settled in Sheffield, and that district, 
then far from gentility, became his home. Here were the people 
who suited him: artisans, unemployed, toughs, it is to them that 
his heart went out, and his heart was stronger than his head, al- 
though he had a good head. His action does not seem revolu- 
tionary today, for he retained his private income of five hundred a 
year throughout. But it was very revolutionary at the time; it 
astonished people, and he did not revolt from a sense of duty or in 
order to make a splash, but because he wanted to. He lived with 
working-class people, adopted many of their ways, worked hard 


205 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


physically, market-gardened, made and wore sandals, made (but 
did not wear) a Saxon tunic. He may not have got into another 
class, but he certainly discarded his own and gained happiness by 
doing so, and at the end of his life, when I came to know him, he 
rather mistrusted me because, like himself, I had had the dis- 
advantage of a university education. 

His heart made him a socialist. Would he be recognized as one 
today? It was the socialism of Shelley and Blake. He strove to 
destroy existing abuses such as landlordism and capitalism, and all 
he offered in their place was love. He was not interested in 
efficiency or organization, or party discipline, nor in industrialism, 
though he tried to be. He believed in Liberty, Fraternity and 
Equality — words now confined to platforms and perorations. He 
saw the New Jerusalem from afar, from the ignoble slough of his 
century, and there is no doubt that it does look more beautiful 
from a distance. When the armies of the downtrodden enter its 
gate, as thanks in part to his efforts they are doing today, the New 
Jerusalem becomes a more ordinary city, where the party leaders 
book the best rooms. Moreover, he was a mystic, and when he 
was asked how he combined his socialism with his mysticism he 
answered, in his gay, quaint way: “I like to hang out my red flag 
from the ground floor, and then go up above to see how it looks’’ 
— a striking answer, but not sound trade unionism. Except by 
people now elderly. Carpenter must be forgotten today in the 
labour movements he helped to found. He would not in the least 
mind. He was absolutely selfless. 

This early ardour poured over into a famous volume of poems. 
Towards Democracy (1883). They are in the style and in the spirit 
of Walt Whitman and have been called Whitman and water — a 
gibe which amused their author. They expressed his faith, and 
his love for the individual and for the beauty of nature. These 
were the only two things he cared about, and he says so repeatedly, 
sometimes in an economic utterance, like Civilisation^ Its Cause 
and Curey sometimes in philosophic speculation, as in The Art of 
Creation, sometimes in aesthetic criticism {Angels^ ^ings), some- 
times in works on sex {Lovers Coming-of-Age and The Intermediate 
Sex), and best of all in his autobiography. My Days and Dreams, 
written at the end of his life. He demands from society the 
furtherance of these two things; all else is nonsense. His prose is 
good, and reveals his sensible and affectionate character. He may 
have worn sandals, refused to eat meat, supported women’s rights 
before they were fashionable, and disbelieved in vivisection, but 

1206 



EDWARD CARPENTER 


he was far, far from being a fool, and the reader who opens him 
patronizingly will encounter something challenging and tough. 

Needless to say. Carpenter had no racial prejudice, and a visit 
to Ceylon, which he made at the invitation of a Tamil friend, 
completed his development, and gave him a metaphysical back- 
ground to the personal emotions and the socialist hopes which he 
had developed in England. He sat at the feet of an Adept, and 
he described the elusive experience in “A Visit to a Gnani”. As 
he had looked outside his own class for companionship, so he was 
obliged to look outside his own race for wisdom. This done, he 
reached equilibrium. He always gave me the feeling that he had 
dominated his material and knew where he was in the world and 
what he wanted. Whether one agreed with him, whether one 
thought him practical, became a minor question. 

He died at Guildford, in 1929. He had worked for a socialism 
which should be non-industrial, unorganized and rooted in the 
soil. Society was far from such a socialism when he wrote, and it 
is further than ever from it today. But that is not the whole of his 
work. 

[1944] 


ao7 



Webb and Webb 


Beatrice Webb, who has just died, was one of the great English 
women of our age. But any homage to her must begin with a 
summary of her work, for that is what she herself would have 
wished. Personal gossip, personal relationships, successes, failures 
— all these she held to be irrelevant: what mattered in her view 
was work ; have you worked ? What is your work ? 

Her work was the investigation of society. She began in the 
eighties and nineties of the last century, by contributing to an 
“inquest” into the social conditions of London. This inquest was 
conducted by her cousin Charles Booth, took seventeen years to 
publish and ran into many volumes of letterpress and maps ; its 
main aim was the analysis of poverty, particularly in the East 
End. She followed it by an independent study of the Cooperative 
Movement in Great Britain, from the seventeenth century until 
her own day. Then — after her marriage with Sidney Webb — she 
collaborated with him, and the first outcome of this was their 
Minority Report on the Poor Law. Both of them had sat on a 
Royal Commission to examine the problem of poverty; it had 
issued a report from which they dissented, and in their Minority 
Report they set in motion the socialist and labour campaign for the 
break-up of the existing Poor Law system. They then produced, 
amongst other books, the History of Trade Unionism^ its sequel In- 
dustrial Democracy^ a treatise in seven volumes on English Local 
Government^ and finally, turning from England to Russia, they 
investigated conditions tliere and produced yet another monu- 
mental survey: Soviet Communism. 

Such was her work. Who was she ? 

She was the daughter of a successful railway director, Richard 
Potter, and she grew up in the heart of Victorianism, amongst 
the amenities which the nineteenth century lavished upon a 
happy few. There were nine Miss Potters, and betwwn the 
country houses and the town houses of their parents they had a 
very pleasant time. Not a frivolous time, for there was in this 
wealthy family a strong vein of puritanism and of intellectual 

208 



WEBB AND WEBB 


seriousness. Herbert Spencer was a close friend, and through 
him the girl got to know George Eliot, Professor Huxley, G. H. 
Lewes, etc. It was a full, interesting life, based economically upon 
capitalism, politically on Liberalism, and philosophically upon 
individualism, and for the nine Miss Potters it was all very well. 
But what was going on outside this comfortable existence, these 
lofty and satisfactory thoughts? Beatrice began to wonder. She 
knew that “the poor” existed, and she read in the reports of 
company directors such phrases as “water plentiful and labour 
docile”. But she wanted to know more. 

Although her family was prosperous, it had the advantage of 
humble connections, who had not risen in the world and were still 
cotton-operators in Lancashire. She got into touch with them, 
through her old nurse, and made their acquaintance, at first under 
an assumed name. She liked them, they her, and it is worth noting 
that she, who was by temperament institutional and bureaucratic, 
first contacted her subject-matter on the human side. Critics 
have complained that she was unsympathetic to the individual, 
and she herself avows that a million sick have always seemed to her 
more worthy of self-sacrificing devotion than a solitary sick child. 
She did not believe in a local and sentimental pity. Nor did she 
believe that poverty could be cured by charity. It could only be 
cured by altering the conditions in which the poor lived, condi- 
tions can’t be altered until they are ascertained, and hence her 
belief in Commissions of Enquiry and note-taking, and question- 
naires, and her ultimate conversion to socialism and state-control, 
and all that her parents detested. Later on when I met her — she 
was an elderly lady then and a very grand one — I was equally 
struck by the rigidity of her opinions and by the human charm 
with which those opinions were expressed. And, reading her 
early experiences in My Apprenticeships I have come to under- 
stand how such a combination occurred. 

Her conversion to socialism and to marriage occurred at the 
same time. About 1890 the firm of Webb and Webb, as they 
called it, was founded, and few unions have been so productive 
of private happiness and of public good. They worked as one 
person: to both of them, the great object in life was work, and the 
same type of work. When cither of them voiced an opinion, they 
invariably used the word “we”. “We think that . . .”, “We can- 
not support the present tendency towards ...” and so on. lt«was 
not a royal “we”, or a conceited one. It was rather the well- 
considered pronouncement of the firm of Webb and Webb. I 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


remember thinking when I visited them in their country home that 
if I could have confuted the pronouncement it would have been 
instantly withdrawn. All I could do was to babble, “Well I don’t 
somehow feel like that myself.” My remark was listened to, was 
dismissed, and the next pronouncement followed. I leant back 
in my deep armchair without any feeling that I had been snubbed. 
The atmosphere was authentic and noble. They were too serious 
to score. She sat on one side of the great hygienic fireplace, he 
on the other — she tall and graceful, he short and compact, and in 
front of the fire lay a third personage, the dog. The dog formed 
no part of any social survey and consequently had the Webbs in 
his power ; whatever they instructed him to do he did the reverse. 
But the human problem lay completely under their control. 
Alternately they would rise, stand in front of the fire, and begin 
a sentence beginning “We”. William Nicholson’s portrait of 
them shows them thus; a splendid conversation-piece; there are 
the Webbs, and the fireplace and the dog, and strewn papers, and 
augustness radiating, and singleness of purpose and unity of 
faith. 1 

For lunch we had mutton, greens, potatoes, rice pudding — 
simplest of menus, but supreme in quality and superbly cooked ; 
never have I eaten such mutton, greens, potatoes, rice. Then 
Sidney Webb took me for a walk. The dog decided to come too, 
and instantly vanished into a wood. “I cannot think why he 
always docs this,” said his master thoughtfully. We continued 
alone to the open country, through a tract appropriately devoid 
of birds, and here in the silence he uttered a sentence about him- 
self and his wife: “Our age this year is 157,” he said, adding: 
“our combined ages.” When I recall that charming sentence to- 
day I think too of the closing words of her autobiography, My 
Apprenticeship. There she speaks of “Our Partnership: a working 
comradeship founded in a common faith and made perfect by 
marriage; perhaps the most exquisite, certainly the most endur- 
ing, of all the varieties of happiness”. Soon after we returned from 
the walk the hired car came round to remove me. They escorted 
me to it, attentive and courteous to the last, and as soon as it 
started they started to go back to their work. That was the only 
time I saw the Webbs, and I could never have been intimate with 
them: only those who worked with them could be that, and my 
own schemes for improving society nm upon different lines. But 

^ This picture is now in the London School of Economics. 

210 



WEBB AND WEBB 


it is a great honour to have met them, and a great enlargement of 
experience, and I want in particular to pay homage to her who 
passed away this month in her sleep at the individual age of 
eighty-five. 

[1943] 


H 


211 



A Book that Influenced Me 


It was rather a little book, and that introduces my first point. 
One’s impulse, on tackling the question of influence, is to search 
for a great book, and to assume that here is the force which has 
moulded one’s outlook and character. Looking back upon my 
own half-century of reading, I have no doubt which my three 
great books have been: Dante’s Divine Comedy^ Gibbon’s Decline 
and Fall and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, All three are great both 
in quality and in bulk. Bulk is not to be despised. Combined 
with quality, it gives a long book a pull over a short one, and per- 
mits us to call it monumental. Here are three monuments. But 
they have not influenced me in the least, though I came across 
them all at an impressionable age. They impressed me by their 
massiveness and design, and made me feel small in the right way, 
and to make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; 
men can only make us feel small in the wrong way. But to realize 
the vastness of the universe, the limits of human knowledge, the 
even narrower limits of human power, to catch a passing glimpse 
of the medieval universe, or of the Roman Empire on its millennial 
way, or of Napoleon collapsing against the panorama of Russian 
daily life — that is not to be influenced. It is to be extended. Per- 
haps those three books were too monumental, and human beings 
are not much influenced by monuments. They gaze, say “Oh!” 
and pass on unchanged. They arc more likely to be influenced 
by objects nearer their own size. Anyhow, that has been my own 
case. 

The book in question is Samuel Butler’s Erewhon^ a work of 
genius, but with Dante, Gibbon and Tolstoy setting our standards 
not to be called great. It has been better described as “a serious 
book not written too seriously”. 

Published as far back as 1872, it is difficult to classify — partly 
a yarn, partly an account of Utopia, partly a satire on Victorian 
civilization. It opens with some superb descriptions of mountain 
scenery; this part is taken from Butler’s New Zealand experiences. 
The hero is a bit of a scamp, and not so much a living character 


212 



A BOOK THAT INFLUENCED ME 

as a vehicle for the author’s likes and dislikes, and for his mis- 
chievousness. He has left England under a cloud for a distant 
colony, with the intention of converting some lost tribe to Christi- 
anity at a handsome profit. He hears that beyond the mountain 
range there are terrible figures, and still more terrible sounds. 
He sets out, and presently discovers enormous and frightful 
statues, through whose hollow heads the wind moans. They are 
the guardians of Erewhon. Struggling past them, he enters the 
unknown country, and the fantasy proper begins. The descent on 
the further side beyond the statues is exquisitely related, and the 
scenery now suggests the Italian slopes of the Alps. He is politely 
imprisoned by the mountaineers until instructions as to his dis- 
posal can come up from the capital. But there are two hitches. 
One of them occurs when his watch is discovered on him. The 
other is with his jailer’s daughter, Yram (Erewhonian for Mary). 
He and she get on well, and when he catches a cold he makes the 
most of it, in the hope of being cosseted by her. She flies into a 
fury. 

By now he has learned the language, and is summoned to the 
capital. He is to be the guest of a Mr Nosnibor, and the account 
of Mr Nosnibor puzzles him. “He is,” says his informant, “a 
delightful man . . . and has but lately recovered from embezzling 
a large sum of money under singularly distressing circumstances 
. . . you are sure to like him.” What can this all mean ? It’s wrong 
to have a watch, wrong to catch a cold, but embezzlement is only 
a subject for sympathy. The reader is equally puzzled, and skil- 
fully does Butler lead us into the heart of this topsy-turvy country, 
without explaining its fantasies too soon. Take the Musical Banks. 
Erewhon, it seems, has two banking systems, one of them like ours, 
the other is Musical Banking. Mr Nosnibor, as befits a dubious 
financier, goes constantly to the first sort of bank, but never at- 
tends the offices of the second, though he is ostensibly its ardent 
supporter. Mrs Nosnibor and her daughtei-s go once a week. 
Each bank has its own coinage, the coins of the musical banks 
being highly esteemed, but of no commercial value, as the hero 
soon discovers when he tries to tip one of its officials with them. 
Just as in Swift we read for a bit about the Yahoos without realiz- 
ing that he intends them for ourselves, so we read about the 
Musical Banks, and only gradually realize that they caricature the 
Church of England and its connections with capitalism. here 
was a great row over this chapter as soon as it was understood ; the 
''enfant temble"\ as he called himself, had indeed heaved a brick. 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


He also shocked people by reversing the positions of crime and 
illness. In Erewhon it is wicked to be ill — that is why Yram 
was angry when the hero had a cold. Embezzlement, on the 
other hand, is a disease. Mr Nosnibor is treated for it profes- 
sionally and very severely. “Poor papa,” says his charming 
daughter, “I really do not think he will steal any more.” And 
as for possessing a watch — all machinery invented after a certain 
date has been destroyed by the Erewhonians, lest it breeds new 
machines, who may enslave men. And there are further brilliant 
inventions — for instance, the Colleges of Unreason, who teach 
a Hypothetical Language, never used outside their walls, and in 
whom we must reluctantly recognize the ancient universities of 
Oxford and Cambridge, and their schools of Latin and Greek. 
And there is the worship of the goddess Ydgrun (Mrs Grundy) ; 
the worship is mostly bad, yet it produces a few fine people, the 
high Ydgrunites. These people were conventional in the right 
way: they hadn’t too many ideals, and they were always willing 
to drop a couple to oblige a friend. In the high Ydgrunites we 
come to what Butler thought desirable. Although a rebel, he was 
not a reformer. He believed in the conventions, provided they 
are observed humanely. Grace and graciousness, good temper, 
good looks, good health and good sense; tolerance, intelligence, 
and willingness to abandon any moral standard at a pinch. That 
is what he admired. 

The book ends, as it began, in the atmosphere of adventure. 
The hero elopes with Miss Nosnibor in a balloon. The splendid 
descriptions of natural scenery are resumed, they fall into the sea 
and are rescued, and we leave him as Secretary of the Erewhon 
Evangelization Company in London, asking for subscriptions 
for the purpose of converting the country to Christianity with 
the aid of a small expeditionary force. “An uncalled-for joke ?” 
If you think so, you have fallen into one of Butler’s little traps. 
He wanted to make uncalled-for jokes. He wanted to write a 
serious book not too seriously. 

Why did this book influence me? For one thing, I have the 
sort of mind which likes to be taken unawares. The frontal full- 
dress presentation of an opinion often repels me, but if it be in- 
sidiously slipped in sidewise I may receive it, and Butler is a 
master of the oblique. Then, what he had to say was congenial, 
and I lapped it up. It was the food for which I was waiting. 
And this brings me to my next point. I suggest that the only books 
that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which 

814 



A BOOK THAT INFLUENCED M£ 

have gone a little further down our particular path than we have 
yet got ourselves. I suggest, furthermore, that when you feel 
that you could almost have written the book yourself — that’s the 
moment when it’s influencing you. You are not influenced when 
you say, “How marvellous! What a revelation! How monu- 
mental! Oh!” You are being extended. You are being in- 
fluenced when you say, “I might have written that myself if I 
hadn’t been so busy.” I don’t suppose that I could have written 
the Divine Comedy or the Decline and Fall, I don’t even think I 
could have written the Antigone of Sophocles, though of all the 
great tragic utterances that comes closest to my heart, that is my 
central faith. But I do think (quite erroneously) that I could have 
turned out this little skit oiErewhon if the idea of it had occurred to 
me. Which is strong evidence that it has influenced me. 

Erewhon also influenced me in its technique. I like that idea of 
fantasy, of muddling up the actual and the impossible until the 
reader isn’t sure which is which, and I have sometimes tried to do 
it when writing myself. However, I mustn’t start on technique. 
Let me rather get in an observation which was put to me the other 
day by a friend. What about the books which influence us nega- 
tively, which give us the food we don’t want, or, maybe, are unfit 
for, and so help us to realize what we do want ? I have amused 
myself by putting down four books which have influenced me 
negatively. They are books by great writers, and I have appreci- 
ated them. But they are not my sort of book. They arc: the 
Confessions of St Augustine, Macchiavelli’s Prince^ Swift’s Gulliver^ 
and Carlyle on Heroes and Hero Worship, All these books have in- 
fluenced me negatively, and impelled me away from them to- 
wards my natural food. I know that St Augustine’s Confessions is a 
“good” book, and I want to be good. But not in St Augustine’s 
way. I don’t want the goodness which entails an asceticism close 
to cruelty. I prefer the goodness of William Blake. And Macchia- 
velli — he is clever — and unlike some of my compatriots I want to 
be clever. But not with Macchiavelli’s cold, inhuman cleverness. 
I prefer the cleverness of Voltaire. And indignation — Swift’s 
indignation in Gulliver is too savage for me; I prefer Butler’s in 
Erewhon, And strength — yes, I want to be strong, but not with 
the strength of Carlyle’s dictator heroes, who foreshadow Hitler. 
I prefer the strength of Antigone. 


[1944] 



Our Second Greatest Novel? 


Most people agree that Tolstoy’s IVar and Peace is the greatest 
novel that western civilization has produced. Which novel is the 
second greatest? I suggest Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du 
Temps Perdu, 

Proust was the son of a doctor. He had some Jewish blood in 
him, and provides another example of the gifts which that wonder- 
ful race has given to the world. He was born in 1871, in a French 
country town which he has immortalized and imparadised as 
Combray. He went to Paris and entered literary society and 
smart society, and Paris also has he immortalized — as Dante im- 
mortalized the Inferno. He had bad health, and he has im- 
mortalized illness. Retiring more and more from the world, 
sleeping by day, shutting himself up in a room which was lined 
with cork, he worked and worked, and strove with the aid of 
memory to throw his sensations and experiences into a work of 
art. He succeeded. The enormous novel which resulted is not as 
warm-hearted or as heroic or as great as War and Peace, But it is 
superior as an artistic achievement; it is full of echoes, exquisite 
reminders, intelligent parallels, which delight the attentive rea- 
der, and at the end, and not until the end, he realizes that those 
echoes and parallels occur, as it were, inside a gigantic cathedral; 
that the book, which seemed as we read it so rambling, has an 
architectural unity and pre-ordained form. 

The first volume came out in 1913. There are seven volumes 
in all — seven sub-novels, with the same characters occurring in 
them, and endless cross-references between them. Proust died 
before the entire work had been published. To the last moment 
he was dictating, struggling against a high fever, and refusing to 
take any nourishment except iced beer. What mattered to him 
was not life, which he had found unsatisfactory, but art, which 
alone makes any meaning out of life. On his last day, in No- 
vember 1922, at three in the morning, he summoned his secretary 
and dictated a noble passage about the duty of a novelist to do his 
work as it ought to be done, basing it on laws of goodness, 

216 



OUR SECOND GREATEST NOVEL? 

scrupulousness and sacrifice which seem to be derived from some 
other world. As a result of the effort of dictation, an abscess burst 
in his lung and he died. Proust was not a very attractive man, 
or a healthy one. But he possibly produced the second greatest 
European novel, and he raised that rather tiresome word 
“art” to an importance and a sublimity which we cannot 
neglect. 

The story is told through a narrator or hero who more or less 
resembles Proust himself; who grows up with his mother and 
grandmother — the only characters displaying human integrity; 
who moves from Combray to the meretricious charm of Paris; 
who goes into aristocratic society and is disillusioned by it; who 
goes in for love and is still more disillusioned ; who falls ill, and, 
prematurely aged, finds that his world has aged too yet is none 
the less fascinating as an object for observation. That is my first 
point. The second is this : what really matters in the book is not 
events but the remembering of events. Many tragic events occur 
and many funny ones, but they take their final shape in the medi- 
tations of the narrator. The novel is called not “Things Past”, 
but the “Remembrance of Things Past”. For all its realism, it 
has about it something of a daydream. It plays about with time. 
It reconsiders the same episode, the same characters, and reaches 
new results. It keeps turning the stuff of life about and looking 
through it from this direction and that. 

The famous “little phrase” {la petite phrase) in the music of 
Vinteuil serves as an example. This “little phrase” becomes al- 
most an actor, and an actor constantly appearing in a new part. 
We first hear the name of Vinteuil in hideous circumstances. The 
composer is dead — an obscure little country organist unknown to 
fame — and his daughter is defiling his memory. The horrible 
scene is to radiate in several directions — everything radiates in 
Proust. Much later, a violin sonata is being performed in Paris, 
and a little phrase from its slow movement catches the ear of 
Swann, and steals into his life. Swann is in love with a worthless 
creature, Odette, and it attends his love. The love affair goes 
wrong, like most affairs in Proust, the phrase is forgotten. Then it 
breaks out again when he is ravaged wth jealousy, and now it 
attends his misery and past happiness at once, without losing its 
own divine character. Who wrote the violin sonata ? On hearing 
it is by Vinteuil, Swann says : “ H’m, I once knew a wretched little 
organist of that name. It couldn’t be by him.” But it is, and 
Vinteuil’s daughter, who seemed so infamous, has piously trans- 


217 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


cribcd her father’s work and published it. Her nature is many- 
sided, like most natures in Proust. 

That seems all. The “little phrase” crosses the book again, 
but as an echo. Then hundreds, indeed thousands of pages on, 
when Vinteuil has become a national glory and there is talk of 
raising a statue to him in the town where he has been so wretched 
and so obscure, another work of his is performed — a posthumous 
string sextet. The hero listens — he is in an unknown, rather terrible 
universe while a sinister dawn reddens the sea. Suddenly, for him 
and for the reader too, the “little phrase” of the sonata recurs — 
half-heard, changed, but giving complete orientation, so that he is 
back in the country of his childhood with the knowledge that it 
belongs to the unknown. It gives memory a shock, and these 
shocks and their emotional consequences are Proust’s main con- 
cern. 

So my first point was that the narrator or hero is more or less 
Proust himself, and my second point — a difficult one, for it takes 
us into his central problem — is that he is concerned not with 
events and people as Tolstoy is, but with memories of events and 
people, and that consequently his novel often has the quality of a 
daydream, in which the ordinary sequence of time gets inter- 
rupted and mixed up. My third point — a straightforward one — 
is the social scene. He gives a brilliant and malicious picture of 
the French aristocracy forty or fifty years ago. It was an aristo- 
cracy which had wealth and style, but no sense of responsibility, 
no connection with the land, and no faith in anything except its 
own superiority to the rest of mankind. Proust saw through it and 
bowed down to it. He was both a satirist and a snob. He gives, 
too, a picture, and a disagreeable one, of the bourgeoisie, who 
force themselves up through the social fabric as the story pro- 
ceeds, and who are typified by the detestable Monsieur and 
Madame Verdurin. The working classes come in, as servants and 
parasites, and arc not handled amiably either. The only people 
who are treated with respect are the hero’s mother and grand- 
mother, women incapable of worldliness and meanness, and the 
artists who, like Proust himself, strive to understand the disappoint- 
ing scene and to give it afterwards a coherence and a beauty it 
never possesses at the time. 

Point number four: Proust as a drawer of character. He is 
masterly. We live with his people, we sec them develop, they 
behave incredibly, and later on we see why. When they contra- 
dict themselves they only become more real. It is an immense 

2i8 



OUR SECOND GREATEST NOVEL? 

gallery of portraits, in which predominate the superb Duchess of 
Guermantes and the sinister yet touching Baron de Charlus. 
Even if people only appear for a few minutes, we know them, 
and hundreds of pages on we shall recognize them if they re- 
appear. The characters are often falling in love with one another, 
and — here is point number five perhaps — I must allude to 
Proust’s theory of love. It is a gloomy theory and I do not agree 
with it. He thought, to be brief, that the more deeply people fall 
in love, the more they distort one another, so that passion is a cer- 
tain prelude to misunderstanding. He thought, too, that jealousy 
is inevitable, and that its arrival means the renewal of a love 
which might otherwise have mercifully died. Long tracts in the 
latter part of the work are devoted to the “hero’s” affair with 
Albertine. They make depressing reading, and most people skip 
them. 

It is important when tackling Proust to be patient and to be in- 
telligent. He makes no concessions to stupidity. Some writers — 
and they are great writers — do make concessions. Dickens does, 
and even Tolstoy does. Proust does not. He expects a constant 
awareness, both from the mind and from the senses. He was an 
individualist, he was an invalid, he was a bit of a snob, he be- 
longed to a society which was decadent, and he had no interest in 
social reform. How dare I suggest that such a creature produced 
the second best European novel ? I dare, because I do not believe 
that this art business can be swept aside. No violence can destroy 
it, no sneering can belittle it. Based on an integrity in man’s 
nature which lies deeper than moral integrity, it rises to heights 
of triumph which give us cause to hope. Proust was an artist and 
a tremendous one ; he found in memory the means of interpreting 
and humanizing this chaotic world, and he has given the results 
in Remembrance of Things Past, 

[1943] 


219 



Gide and George 


Two modern writers of European reputation, the Frenchman 
Andri Gide and the German Stefan George, offer contrasted 
reactions to the present chaos. I will begin with Gide. 

Gide is an old man now. ^ He has written a number of novels 
including The Immoralist^ his most disquieting work. The Caves 
of the Vatican, expressing his pagan side, and The Narrow Gate, 
which expresses his Protestant pietistic side. He has also written 
criticisms and plays, and a fascinating and frank autobiography 
of his early life, he has kept journals, been active at conferences, 
helped to run the chief French literary magazine. And now he 
is an old man. And when his country collapsed three years ago 
he might naturally have done what some French writers actually 
did — that is to say, collaborated with Hitler or at all events with 
Vichy. He refused. Retiring to unoccupied France, he continued 
to express truths which he alone, owing to his prestige, was able 
to get into print. Instead of playing for safety, he used his high 
position to uphold still higher the torch of freedom. Then Hitler 
advanced again and occupied the south. Gide got away to Tunis, 
and when the Allied armies captured it this spring they found 
him there. He has honoured us as well as his own country by his 
conduct, and he has advanced the republic of letters. 

Yet I do not want to present Gide as a hero. He would not 
wish it and he isn’t the type. He is not a hero. He is a humanist, 
^he humanist has four leading characteristics — curiosity, a free 
4nind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race — and all 
four are present in Gide. His curiosity — he is always inquiring, 
he’s interested in society and its break-up, in his own character 
and other people’s, in virtues and in vices too: in forgery as 
much as in the ecstasies of the saints: in self-denial and in self- 
indulgence. And secondly, he has a free mind. He is indifferent 
to authority, and he is willing to pay the penalty for independ- 
ence. For example, he once went to the Congo, and he was so 
disgusted by economic imperialism and its exploitation of the 
^ He died in February 1951. 


220 



GIDE AND GEORGE 


African Negro that he became a Communist, at some personal 
inconvenience. Later on he went to Russia, and what he saw 
of Conununism there compelled him at even greater inconveni- 
ence to renounce it. I’m not saying either of these decisions is 
correct. I only want to point out that here’s a man with a free 
mind, indifferent to authority, indifferent sometimes to logic, 
indifferent to everything except what he believes to be true. He 
has remained an individualist in an age which imposes discipline. 
His third characteristic is that he believes in good taste. Gidc is a 
literary man, not a scientist, not a prophet, and his judgements 
tend to be aesthetic. He’s subtle and elusive — sometimes annoy- 
ingly so — he sets great store by charm, he’s more interested in 
harmony than in doctrine. 

Fourth, he believes in humanity. He is not cynical about the 
human race. And consequently — for it is a consequence — he has 
no class prejudice and no colour prejudice. I remember so well 
the last time I met him: it was in an international congress of 
writers at Paris in the thirties, and he had to make a speech. A 
tall, willowy figure, he undulated on the platform above the vast 
audience, rather full of airs and graces and inclined to watch his 
own effects. Then he forgot himself and remembered the human 
race and made a magnificent oration. His thesis was that the 
individual will never develop his individuality until he forms part 
of a world society. As his thought soared, his style became fluid, 
and sentimentality passed into affection. He denied that huma- 
nity would cease to be interesting if it ceased to be miserable, and 
imagined a social state where happiness will be accessible to all, 
and where men, because they arc happy, will be great. At that 
time the menace of Fascism was already darkening our doorways, 
and it seemed to us, as we listened to Gide, that here was a light 
which the darkness could not put out. It is not easy, in a few 
words, to give a picture of a very complicated individual ; let me 
anyhow make it clear that he reacts to the European tragedy as a 
humanist(that the four characteristics of humanism are curiosity, 
a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race,J 
and that he has been prepared to suffer for his belief ; they have 
not been just for the study and the cloister; and consequently men 
honour him. 

Now there are other reactions to the European tragedy besides 
humanism. Let us turn to Stefan George and sec what hp did in 
the face of the approaching darkness — George, a fine lyric poet, 
a sincere man of high ideals and of an iron will. He died exactly 


221 



THE ARTS m ACTION 


ten years ago, in 1933, after the establishment of Hitler’s power. 
He was born in a very different Germany, in 1868. Well edu- 
cated, and versed in European culture, he thought of his country 
as one among many, and owed a special debt, in his early poems, 
to France. By nature he was a recluse. He wrote for a small 
circle of friends and was accepted by them as their chief. Then 
he had an intense personal experience which exalted his poetry 
but did not improve his judgement, and as a result of that experi- 
ence the circle of friends hardened into a cult, and George almost 
assumed the airs of a priest. Domineering and humourless, he 
trained his young disciples and began to send them out into the 
world. He taught them to despise the common man and to 
despise women, to prefer instinct to brains, and to believe in good 
birth, and in state organization. A friend of mine who attended 
the University of Heidelberg used to sec these disciples of George 
in the streets, “almost dancing, tall, graceful and athletic, with 
their heads thrown back, as if they were trying to avoid the sight 
of common humanity”. It seemed like the coming of a new 
aristocracy, and George himself was a natural aristocrat, just as 
Gide is a natural democrat. He was an exceptional person, highly 
gifted as a poet, a lofty idealist with something of a prophet’s 
grandeur. He knew it, and he made the mistake of thinking 
that when a person is exceptional he ought to be a leader. The 
idea of leadership, so seductive and so pernicious both for the 
leaders and the led, invaded this fine artist. The swastika was 
stamped on the covers of his latest books, his poems spoke of a 
Fiihrer and a New Reich, and he found a cure for the evils of his 
age not in humanism, like Gide, but in authority. That was his 
reaction to the approaching European tragedy: authoritarianism. 

The Nazis were not slow to take him up. From their point 
of view he was one of them. The National Socialists, it has 
been well said, have a peculiar gift for adopting and defiling ideas 
that have been of real value in their time, and they did not spare 
Stefan George. They patronized him, and he had the misery of 
seeing his work exploited by cads — the greatest misery which a 
fastidious writer can undergo. He saw his ideals put into practice 
by Hitler, and it was more than he could stand. Doctor Goebbels 
wrote to him — no doubt with Hitler’s approval — and offered him 
high honours as a poet in the gangster state. To his glory, he 
never answered the letter. Germany had become intolerable, 
and in 1 933 he went away to Switzerland to die. That is his end — 
a sad end but a dignified one. The poet whom the Nazis claim 


228 



OIDE AND GEORGE 


as their own could not stand their foulness and preferred to die in 
exile. 

Creative writers are always greater than the causes that the^ 
represent, and I have not interpreted either Gide or George in 
this brief summary of their respective attitudes. I have, for 
instance, conveyed nothing of the quality of their emotion or 
their style, nor is it possible to do so except by quotations. But 
they neatly illustrate two contrasted reactions in this age of 
misery: the humanist’s reaction, and the authoritarian’s. 

[1943] 



Gide’s Death 


I never knew Gide well, but we exchanged letters now and then, 
and I saw something of him in Paris at an international writers’ 
conference in 1935. Like many others at that date, he was then 
hopeful of the Russian experiment, he was not scared by its 
economic and social heresies, and he had not foreseen its con- 
tempt for individual freedom or its regimentation of the intellect 
and of taste. He made a moving speech at the conference about 
the greatness of Man, who will become greater still when no men 
suffer from misery or want. He was the humanist unafraid. 

He was also as slippery as a trout. He entertained myself and 
a friend at a restaurant, stood us a delightful dinner with promise 
of a still more delightful talk after it, and then — il se sauva when 
the coffee arrived, he saved himself, he was gone. Andr6 Malraux 
went with him. I still remember the disappearance of those two 
distinguished backs, and our mild disappointment. In what 
diverse directions were they finally to vanish ! That, too, none of 
us then foresaw. 

I saw Gide once more, after Paris. He did not see me. It was 
in a remote valley in the Crau, in Provence. He was leaning over 
a bridge with a friend, looking at a rushing turbid stream, silent, 
and looking upstream. It is thus that I most clearly see him. 
Distinguished as ever, he was also content. I realized more 
clearly how much he had got out of life, and had managed to 
transmit through his writings. Not life’s greatness — greatness is a 
nineteenth-century perquisite, a Goethean job. But life’s com- 
plexity, and the delight, the difficulty, the duty of registering 
that complexity and of conveying it. Unlike some others who 
have apprehended complexity, he was a hard worker. He wrote 
and wrote and travelled and wrote, and oh how he has helped 
us in consequence! He has taught thousands of people to mis- 
trust facades, to call the bluff, to be brave without bounce and 
inconsistent without frivolity. He is the humanist of our age — 
not of other ages, but of this one. 

His equipment contained much that was unusual and bewildcr- 


224 



OEDE'S DEATH 


ing. He was what The Times obituary notice of him sagely 
termed “heterodox” (i.e. homosexual), he had in many ways a 
pagan outlook, yet he had also a puritanical and religious outlook, 
which was inherent in his upbringing and sometimes dominated 
him. He had also, and above all, a belief in discovering the truth 
and following it. This comes out in the fascinating exchange of 
letters between him and Paul Claudel. Claudel, an authorita- 
tive authoritarian, had much that Gidc believed himself to lack — 
more genius, more influence, more money, more will-power, more 
everything — and he tried to impose his formidable personality 
upon his correspondent, and to convert him to his own strongly 
held views. He was a fisher of men. He cast his net. But the fish 
escaped. Wavering, yielding, tempted, flustered, Gide neverthe- 
less slipped through the meshes and continued his undulating 
course upstream. II se sauva. He saved himself instead of being 
saved, and left Paul Claudel planted on the bank. 

Gidc had not a great mind. But he had a free mind, and free 
minds are as rare as great, and even more valuable at the present 
moment. He has died at the age of eighty-one. No one could 
wish old people to live on in days like these, yet I wish he had 
found time to write me a promised letter on the subject of 
Howards End, Year after year I have heard through mutual 
friends that he was contemplating one. It would have been a 
precious and a provocative possession. 

[1951] 


225 



Romain Rolland and the Hero 


There died a couple of months ago a French writer who is of 
international importance. Whether he was a great writer is 
debatable, but he did address all humanity, not merely his own 
nation. Romain Rolland is not as celebrated today as he was a 
quarter of a century back, when he seemed to be of the first rank, 
and to have almost the stature of Tolstoy. There are two reasons 
for this decline in reputation. He did not fulfil his early promise as 
a novelist, the world did not fulfil his hopes ; and he started out 
with passionate hopes. He became isolated, he was partly for- 
gotten. 

He was born in 1866. Although he came from the heart of 
France, and became a professor at Paris, he had strong Teutonic 
sympathies, which we must bear in mind if we are to understand 
him. He had an enormous admiration for German music, and 
for much German literature, and he cherished a rather Teutonic 
cult for the great man. With him, the cult was beneficent, for 
greatness, in his vision, meant not power over others, not dictator- 
ship, but creation, exploration. All the same, his lifelong insist- 
ence on the Hero is not very French, and it has its distant parallel 
in the sinister cult which has produced Hitler. He combined 
hero-worship with belief in the people, and by “the people” 
he meant not the stodgy “common man” who is being so boosted 
by our administrators today, but the people as a fiery instinctive 
emotional force, the people who made the French Revolution. 
The “hero” and the “people” were his twin stars, and whenever 
they shine he sees his way through the uncongenial tangle of his 
century. 

His most important work is the enormous novel John Chris- 
topher. The theme of it is the hero as musician. There are ten 
volumes, and I can remember our excitement at the beginning of 
the century when they were coming out. We were full of hopes 
then, easily held hopes, we did not know the severity of the prob- 
lems which Fate was reserving for us, and the volumes were both 
civilized and inspiring, and how few books are both! They were 

226 



ROMAIN HOLLAND AND THE HERO 


intensely human, tliey had integrity, they possessed the culture 
of the past, yet they proclaimed that culture is not time-bound or 
class-bound, it is a living spirit to be carried on. “ Have you read 
the latest John Christopher ! we were saying. “Has he got to 
Paris yet?” As the series proceeded, our excitement slackened. 
However, the author pushed his great achievement through, and 
was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1916. Romain 
Rolland had entered the First World War. 

He was shattered by it to an extent which we can scarcely 
comprehend. Today we are all of us tougher, and though we still 
cherish hopes they are protected by a very necessary crust of 
cynicism. We are no longer surprised. He — who had known 
what was best in Germany, and there was much good in that 
Germany — he, who was an inheritor of France, saw the two 
precious civilizations destroying each other, and the imperialism 
of Russia slinking up behind. While loyal to France, he became 
an internationalist, and a precursor of the League of Nations, and 
addressed to the youth of his country a pamphlet entitled Above 
the Battlefield, 

For the finer spirits of Europe there are two dwelling-places; 
our earthly fatherland, and that other City of God. Of the 
one we are the guests, of the other the builders. To the one let 
us give our lives and our faithful hearts; but neither family, 
friend nor fatherland nor aught that we love has power over 
the spirit, which is the light. It is our duty to rise above tem- 
pests, and thrust aside the clouds which threaten to obscure 
it; to build higher and stronger, dominating the injustice and 
hatred of nations, the walls of that city wherein the souls of 
the whole world may assemble. 

The title Above the Battlefield was unfortunate. It suggested that 
the writer felt himself superior to his fellows, and it annoyed 
people who were brave or vulgar-minded or both — and it is 
possible to be both. He became unpopular in his own country, 
and stayed for the rest of the war in Switzerland working on 
prisoners’ relief. When peace came he had some further success 
as a dramatist. He had always been interested in a People’s 
Theatre, where the people could be given what they understood 
and could participate in, and not what the upper classes thought 
nice for them. He had longed for the popular stage of ancient 
Greece to be reborn in the modern world. And he had himself 
written plays, dealing with mass-revolution and freedom (a play 
on Danton, for instance), and some of these were performed, 

227 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


under the direction of Reinhardt. But it is as the author of 
John Christopher and Above the Battlefield that he is best remembered. 

Romain Rolland knew and understood a great deal about 
music, and whatever he says is worth reading. He wrote a long 
and important work on Beethoven, also on Handel; he could 
appreciate composers as diverse from one another as Berlioz and 
Hugo Wolf. He did not like Brahms — most Frenchmen and 
many Germans do not — and he had only a contemptuous tole- 
rance for Debussy. What he demanded was vitality, robustness, 
from which alone the mysterious filaments of the spirit can 
sprout. He felt music as a breath from the vanished centuries, 
to be transformed by our lungs into the song of the moment and 
the prophecy of the future ; music is the god which each genera- 
tion must make into flesh. It was the deepest thing for him, and 
anyone who has felt its depth is bound to join in homage to him. 
I am not qualified to say whether he is a sound musical inter- 
preter. He is certainly a thrilling one, and here is the heart of 
him, without doubt. There is a scene in the opening volume of 
John Christopher where the hero, still a baby, touches the piano 
for the first time, and experiments in the marriage of sounds. I 
have never come across a scene like it in literature, for it is not 
merely poetic, not merely good child-psychology: it seems to take 
us inside a special chamber of the human spirit, and make us 
co-creators. 

The opening volumes of John Christopher are the best. They 
take place in a little princely city of the old Germany, on the 
banks of the Rhine. The child’s forebears have been musicians 
here for generations in a quiet way, but he himself is anything 
but submissive and he does not fit in. The young Beethoven 
is in the writer’s mind, and he has supplied other details from 
his own youth. Explosive, moody, inconsiderate, uncouth, 
John Christopher is all the same good: affectionate, generous, 
trustful. He suffers atrociously from poverty, and the cruelty of 
his drunken father, and from a fear of death which is only tem- 
pered by his disgust at life. Violent longings, p)owers outside him 
shake him. His genius is recognized, but not fully recognized; 
he is too large for the little town, and when he is actually rude 
to its Grand Duke he is expelled and escapes to France. In these 
early volumes we get, besides the impression of genius and 
character, a brilliant and sympathetic account of the old Ger- 
many which will never return; wc sit in little shops and go for 
Sunday walks or to a performance at the local opera; we make 

228 



ROMAIN HOLLAND AND THE HERO 

love, with discretion, to this girl or that; we are narrow-minded 
and serious, and past us all the time flows the Rhine. Dawn and 
Morning (volumes one and two) are delightful. In volume five we 
get to Paris, and the interest rather flags. John Christopher’s 
conunents and escapades are less exciting, and his surroundings 
have lost their vividness. He discovers, after a good deal of 
grumpiness, that Paris is not France, gets into touch with the 
people, and makes close friends with a fine-natured Frenchman, 
Olivier. By now he is famous, and there is a touching episode 
when he visits a provincial admirer — a humble and sincere old 
man whom he has never seen. The visit is a success — just a 
success; we are on tenterhooks all the time lest it be a failure, 
for the great musician is extremely irritable, and the humble old 
man is an admirer of Brahms, and a bit of a bore. 

The final volume, The New Day, passes into mysticism. The 
hero, mortally sick, finds himself fording a river which is partly 
the Rhine of his youth, partly the river of death. The crossing is 
hard, and on his shoulder is seated a child. Heavier grows the 
burden, and from the bank he has left come cries of “You’ll 
never succeed”. He stumbles, he is drowning — and then the 
water becomes shallow. The sun rises. Bells burst into music, and 
he reaches the further shore. John Christopher is saved. And he 
has not merely saved himself. He is not just the artist. He is 
Christopher the saint. He has carried on his shoulders, through 
the troubles of our century, the divine spirit of man, so that it 
may live and grow. “Child, who are you?” he asks. And the 
child answers, “I am the day which is going to be born.” 

I don’t think the work will live like another French panorama- 
novel of the period — the novel of Proust. It is too episodic and 
diffuse, the conception sags, the satire is often journalistic and 
the style flat. But Romain Rolland was a far bigger person than 
Proust from the social and moral point of view; he cared about 
other people and tried to help them, he fought for a better world 
constantly and passionately, and he moved across frontiers to- 
wards internationalism as surely as the Rhine moves through 
Germany to the universal sea. He may be forgotten today, but 
insight and sincerity such as his will return to a world which 
needs them badly, and through other lips he will inspire youth 
once more and clarify its hopes. 

[i9f53 


229 



A WhifF of D’Annunzio 


Poet, hero and cad, D’Annunzio presents a test problem to the 
Englishman. Byron, to whom he has been compared, was diffi- 
cult enough, and was sent by us on a continental pilgrimage 
from which he has never returned. D’Annunzio is even more 
troublesome, since his poetry is more poetical than Byron’s, his 
heroism more histrionic and his caddishness not an aristocratic 
freak but innate in his bones and bowels. And he has no sense of 
humour — the “saving grace” as we are pleased to call it. Faced 
by such a problem, the Englishman becomes uncritical and un- 
just, thinks himself profound when he castigates and acute when 
he is merely being nasty, refuses to admit that an ill-bred egoist 
can be a genius and a leader of men, and suspects shoddiness 
because there is no underlying moral worth. D’Annunzio, a very 
great southerner, is not thus to be judged. His standards are not 
ours, and if we ask him to sign a suburban gentlemen’s agreement 
he will impale us contemptuously upon the point of his pen as 
he did President Wilson. How are we to approach him? His 
secretary and sometime publisher, Signor Tom Antongini, has 
written a book which may help us. It is not much of a book, but 
it breathes his atmosphere and accepts his ideals. 

His leading passion was the Renaissance passion for earthly 
immortality. And he knew that immortality cannot be won by 
talking. Effort must accompany advertisement, and as a writer, 
a patriot and a lover he worked very hard. By the time he died 
he had a number of books to his credit, a still larger number of 
mistresses, and the city of Fiume. It is no small haul. It is a 
substantial hostage against oblivion. So long as Italy is Italy, 
he will not be forgotten. He, Paderewski and T. E. Lawrence 
stand out as the three artists who achieved feune as men of action 
during the 1914-1918 war, and of the three he is the most 
spectacular. He will win the prize which he wanted and which 
he certainly deserves. 

There is another prize — the silence that does not even say it 
is silent; D’Annunzio knew nothing about that. In some words 

2SO 



A WHIFF OF D’ANNUNZIO 


which were engraved in his retreat, the Vittoriale — ^words 
which his biographer accepts as mysterious but which we find 
muddled — he claims to approach the gods Princeps et Praeco^ as 
a Prince and a Herald. He was always heralding, always heading 
some sumptuous embassy of his own creation, always clothing 
his actions in a gorgeous rhetoric which concealed them. Here 
again he belongs to the garrulous, restless, processional Italian 
Renaissance. “I go to awake the Dead,” cried the fifteenth- 
century scholar Gyriac of Ancona, meaning that he was getting 
on with his Greek studies. “I go towards the Light,” cries 
D’Annunzio, meaning that he has ratted in the Chamber of 
Deputies from the Conservatives to the Socialists. The actions 
are not unimportant, the phrases arc striking. But the Light, the 
Dead, remain as they were, in silence. 

Signor Antongini, who was with him while he was writing The 
Martyrdom of St Sebastian^ is interesting in this connection. He 
suggests that that particular play was inspired not by religious 
mysticism but by a pair of female legs. D’Annunzio was full of 
spiritual ideas, but he could not use them until he had had the 
good fortune to see Ida Rubinstein dancing in a ballet. Then he 
exclaimed, “Here arc the legs of St Sebastian for which I have 
been searching in vain all these years,” and poetry poured from 
his pen. No doubt the anecdote exaggerates, still it emphasizes 
the point that his contacts with life were sensuous and local in 
their character: certain gestures, certain limbs, certain spots of 
soil in the Abruzzi and elsewhere, served as jumping-off grounds 
for his art, and impelled him into orations about human destiny. 
Nothing he writes is profound. Yet he is never superficial, 
because he is excited by what he touches and sees, or hopes to 
touch. “We ate oranges as if they were bread.” Why has this 
phrase, in its half-remembered Italian, lingered in my mind for 
nearly thirty years ? It is a phrase from his drama The Dead City^ 
and, placed where he placed it, it brought out the taste of the 
newly picked fruit and the feeling of it between the lips and the 
teeth : not pulp, not juice, but a unity, bread-like, divine. The 
characters — poor mortals, they had fallen in love as they should 
not — discussed such an orange amidst the aridities of Greece, 
and it passed as a tangible presence behind the veil of their prose, 
it lent importance to their fate, like the peaches and pears sur- 
rounding a Crivelli Madonna. There are several lists in Signor 
Antongini’s tribute, which will repel the reader by their triviality 
and expensiveness, yet he had better study them, because they 

231 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


indicate D’Annunzio’s aesthetic sources — lists of fruits, mottoes, 
scents, horses, villas, women, dogs. Most of these, including the 
women, had to be renamed after the poet handled them, so that 
he might have an additional sense of power. They are defiled 
by his possessiveness, but they are evidently necessary to his art. 

The women deserve particular attention, from Duse the Divine 

down to poor Madame de B , whose confessions fill an entire 

chapter. She describes her first and last visit to the poet’s villa 
at Florence. “ On the pillar on the left I read ‘ Beware of the dog ! ’ 
and on the right ‘Beware of the master’.” Her knees trembled, 
she rang the bell. “The first shock in store was for my nostrils, 
the air was heavy with incense,” and before many minutes she 
had been seduced. A few minutes more, and she was bowling 
away in a carriage lined like a coffin with roses. She told Signor 
Antongini of her fall many years later. It had become her great, 
her tender memory. He mentioned her name with due discretion 

to his employer, who only said: “Madame de B ? I think I 

remember her vaguely. She was at the time of La Figlia di Jorio.'*^ 

By now we are well into the waters of the Mediterranean. 
Our trouble is that, to the northerner, such an inscription as 
“Beware of the dog — Beware of the master” is essentially comic. 
Yet neither Signor Antongini nor D’Annunzio nor Madame de 

B finds anything funny in it or anything vulgar; it is to them 

a cynical proclamation of virility, which she who ignores ignores 
at her peril. This makes them antipathetic, so we must remind 
ourselves in conclusion that the Mediterranean is also the sea of 
courage and of splendour. D’Annunzio’s courage is unquestion- 
able. He possessed both grit and dash; he could urge Italy into 
the War, fight in the trenches, fly over Vienna, occupy and ad- 
minister Fiume against the approval of the Allies and of his own 
government, and he could watch his own appendix be cut out 
under a local anaesthetic. And his splendour — that too is 
incontestable, although by our standards it is often encumbered 
by bric-d-brac. He could write like music, like scents, like religion, 
like blood, like anything, he could sweep into the folds of his 
magnificent prose whatever took his fancy, and then assert it was 
sacred. There has been nobody like him. Fascism wisely 
accepted him after a little demur, and we had better do the 
same. We can anyhow hail him by two of the titles which he 
claims: poet and hero. 


[1938] 



The Complete Poems of 
C. P. Cavafy 


The first English translation of Cavafy was made by Cavafy. 

The occasion is over thirty years ago now, in his flat, lo rue 
Lepsius, Alexandria; his dusky family-furnished flat. He is back 
from his work in a government office; the Third Circle of the 
Irrigation employs him as it might have employed many of his 
heroes. I am back from my work, costumed in khaki ; the British 
Red Cross employs me. We have been introduced by an English 
friend, our meetings are rather dim, and Cavafy is now saying 
with his usual gentleness, “You could never understand my 
poetry, my dear Forster, never.” A poem is produced — “The 
God Abandons Antony” — and I detect some coincidences 
between its Greek and public-school Greek. Cavafy is amazed. 
“ Oh, but this is good, my dear Forster, this is very good indeed, ” 
and he raises his hand, takes over, and leads me through. It 
was not my knowledge that touched him but my desire to know 
and to receive. He had no idea then that he could be widely 
desired, even in the stumbling North. To be understood in 
Alexandria and tolerated in Athens was the extent of his ambi- 
tion. 

Since that distant day, many other translators have had a shot. 
The shooter most to my taste is George Valassopoulo. He had 
the advantage of working with the poet and he has brought much 
magic across; Cavafy is largely magic. But Valassopoulo only 
translated, and only wished to translate, some of the poems. 
What was needed, and has been happily found, is a translator 
for them all, for all the 154 of them: Professor John Mavrogor- 
dato. This eminent scholar has done a most valuable piece of 
work, lucid, faithful, intelligent; he has enabled us to read what 
Cavafy wanted to say, and to read it in its proper perspective. 
For Cavafy as a historical poet, or as an erotic poet, or an 
introspective one, would fail to convey that Mediterranean 
complexity. We need all of him if we are to understand anything. 

All the poems are short. They are learned, sensuous, ironic, 
civilized, sensitive, witty. Where’s their centre ? Courage enters. 


233 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


though not in an ordinary nor a reputable form. Cavafy ap- 
preciates cowardice also, and likes the little men who can’t be 
.consistent or maintain their ideals, and can’t know what is 
Ihappening and have to* dodge. 

Be afraid of grandeurs, O my soul ; 

And if you cannot conquer your ambitions 
With hesitation always and precautions 
Follow them up. 

Be afraid, if you are Caesar, of that obscure person in the crowd ; 
he may be Artemidorus trying to warn you against death. Be 
afraid lest, into your comfortable flat, Pompey’s head is carried 
on a trencher. Be afraid if, like Nero, you lie asleep, of the 
obscure tumblings in the cupboard; your little household gods 
are falling over each other in terror, because they, not you, can 
hear the approaching footsteps of the Erinyes. And if you are 
brave your courage is only genuine when, like those who fought 
at Thermopylae, you know you are certain to perish. 

Courage and cowardice are equally interesting to his amoral 
mind, because he sees in both of them opportunities for sensation. 
What he envies is the power to snatch sensation, to triumph 
over the moment even if remorse ensues. Perhaps that physical 
snatching is courage ; it is certainly the seed of exquisite memories 
and it is possibly the foundations of art. The amours of youth, 
even when disreputable, are delightful, thinks Cavafy, but the 
point of them is not that: the point is that they create the future, 
and may give to an ageing man in a rue Lepsius perceptions he 
would never have known. 

The years of my youth, my life of pleasure — 

How clearly I sec the meaning of them now. 

What unnecessary, what vain repentances . . . 

But I did not sec the meaning then. 

Under the dissolute living of my youth 

Were being formed the intentions of my poetry, 

The province of my art was being planned. 

And that is why my repentances were never lasting. 

My resolutions to control myself, to change, 

Used to endure for two weeks at most. 

The attitude recalls Proust’s, but the temperament differs. 

234 



THE COMPLETE POEMS OF C. P. CAVAFY 

Cavafy is never embittered, never the invalid. He is thankful to 
have lived, and 

Young men even now are repeating his verses. 

His visions pass before their lively eyes. 

Their healthy brains enjoying, 

Their welldrawn, tightskinned flesh. 

Even now are moved by his revelations of beauty. 

He has something of the antique faith in fame. He is not a 
super-sensitive Frenchman. He is not English. He is not even 
British. Alexandria’s his home. 

Environment, of house, of city centres, city quarters 

Which I look upon and where I walk; years and years. 

I have created you in the midst of joy and in the midst of 
sorrows ; 

With so many circumstances, with so many things. 

And you have been made sensation, the whole of you, for me, 

Alexandria is the city which he creates and over which he leans, 
meditative, when sorrows and triumphs recur; the city over 
which Antony, nearly two thousand years before him, may have 
leant when the music sounded and the God abandoned him. 
It is in Alexandria that he died in 1933 at the age of seventy; 
the Greek Hospital lay close by to receive him. 

His material as a poet, then, begins with his own experiences 
and sensations: his interest in courage and cowardice and bodily 
pleasure, and so on. He begins from within. But he never 
makes a cult of himself or of what he feels. All the time he is 
being beckoned to and being called to by history, particularly 
by the history of his own race. History, too, is full of courage, 
cowardice, lust, and is to that extent domestic. But it is something 
more. It is an external inspiration. And he found in the expanses 
and recesses of the past, in the clash of great names and the 
tinkle of small ones, in the certified victories and slurred defeats, 
in the jewels and the wounds and the vast movements beginning 
out of nothing and sometimes ending nowhere: he found in 
them something that transcended his local life and freshened and 
strengthened his art. Demurely, ironically, he looks into the 
past, for he knew the answers. Cleopatra did not win Actium. 
Julian did not reinstate paganism. Anna Comnena took the 
wrong side. The Senate sit in state to receive the barbarians; 


235 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


news comes that there are no more barbarians, so the Senate have 
nothing to do. Sometimes there is a double irony; the Prince 
from western Libya impresses the Alexandrians by his reticence 
and dignity; he is actually a most ordinary youth, who dare not 
speak because of his awful Greek accent, 

and he suffered no little discomfort 
Having whole conversations stacked inside him. 

“Exactly what I feel in England,” a Greek friend remarked to 
me. The irony became triple as he spoke, and Cavafy would have 
appreciated this further turn of the screw. 

There is, however, nothing patronizing in his attitude to the 
past, nor have his cameos the aloofness of Heredia. The warmth 
of the past enthralls him even more than its blunders, and he 
can give the sense of human flesh and blood continuing through 
centuries that are supposed to be unsatisfactory. A tomb here, 
an inscription there; coloured glass worn by an emperor and 
empress at their coronation because they have no jewels. Some- 
times the supernatural appears, and not always ominously: as in 
“One of their Gods”, it may enrich voluptuousness: 

When one of them was passing through the market 
Of Seleukeia, about the hour of evenfall, 

Like a tall, a beautiful, a perfect youth. 

With the joy of incorruptibility in his eyes. 

With his black and perfumed hair, 

The passers-by would look at him, 

And one would ask another if he knew him. 

And if he was a Greek of Syria, or a stranger. But a few 
Who obsen/cd with greater attention 
Would understand and draw aside ; 

And while he disappeared under the arcades, 

In the shadows and in the lights of evening. 

Going towards the quarter which at night only 
Lives, with orgies and debauchery. 

And every kind of drunkenness and lust, 

They would wonder which it could be of Them, 

And for what disreputable sensuality 
He had come down to the streets of Seleukeia 
From those Majestical, All-holy Mansions. 

The idea that the Divine should descend to misbehave, so shock- 
ing to the Christian, comes naturally enough to a paganizing 
Greek, and the poem (which I first knew in a Valassopoulo 

236 



THE COMPLETE POEMS OF C. P. CAVAFY 

translation) sums up for me much that is characteristic. And 
how admirable is its construction ! Only two sentences, and the 
second one descending and descending until the final abrupt 
ascent. 

His attitude to the past did not commend him to some of his 
contemporaries, nor is it popular today. He was a loyal Greek, 
but Greece for him was not territorial. It was rather the influence 
that has flowed from his race this way and that through the ages, 
and that (since Alexander the Great) has never disdained to mix 
with barbarism, has indeed desired to mix; the influence that 
made Byzantium a secular achievement. Racial purity bored 
him, so did political idealism. And he could be caustic about the 
claims of the tight-lipped little peninsula overseas. “Aristocracy 
in modern Greece?” he once exclaimed. “To be an aristocrat 
there is to have made a corner in coffee in the Peiracus in 1849,” 
The civilization he respected was a bastardy in which the Greek 
strain prevailed, and into which, age after age, outsiders would 
push, to modify and be modified. If the strain died out — never 
mind: it had done its work, and it would have left, far away 
upon some Asian upland, a coin of silver, stamped with the 
exquisite head of a Hellenizing king. Pericles, Aristides, The- 
mistoclcs, schoolroom tyrants : what did they know of tliis exten- 
sion which is still extending, and which sometimes seemed (while 
he spoke) to connote the human race? 

Half humorously, half seriously, he once compared the Greeks 
and the English. The two peoples are almost exactly alike, he 
argued: quick-witted, resourceful, adventurous. “But there is 
one unfortunate difference between us, one little difference. We 
Greeks have lost our capital — and the results are what you see. 
Pray, my dear Forster, oh pray, that you never lose your capital. ” 

That was in 1918. British insolvency seemed impossible then. 
In 1951, when all things are possible, his words make one think — 
words of a very wise, very civilized man, words of a poet who has 
caught hold of something that cannot be taken away from him 
by bankruptcy, or even by death. 

[1951] 


237 



Virginia Woolf 

The Rede Lecture, delivered in the 
Senate House, Cambridge 


When I was appointed to this lectureship the work of Virginia 
Woolf was much in my mind, and I asked to be allowed to speak 
on it. To speak on it, rather than to sum it up. There are two 
obstacles to a summing-up. The first is the work’s richness and 
complexity. As soon as we dismiss the legend of the Invalid 
Lady of Bloomsbury, so guilelessly accepted by Arnold Bennett, 
we find ourselves in a bewildering world where there are few 
headlines. We think of The Waves and say, “Yes — that is 
Virginia Woolf” ; then we think of The Common Reader y where she 
is different, of A Room of One's Own or of the preface to Life As We 
Have Known It : different again. She is like a plant which is sup- 
posed to grow in a well-prepared garden bed — the bed of 
esoteric literature — and then pushes up suckers all over the place, 
through the gravel of the front drive, and even through the flag- 
stones of the kitchen yard. She was full of interests, and their 
number increased as she grew older, she was curious about life, 
and she was tough, sensitive but tough. How can her achieve- 
ment be summed up in an hour? A headline sometimes serves a 
lecturer as a lifeline on these occasions, and brings him 
safely into the haven where he would be. Shall I find one 
today? 

The second obstacle is that 1941 is not a good year in which to 
sum up anything. Our judgements, to put it mildly, are not at 
their prime. We are all of us upon the Leaning Tower, as she 
called it, even those of us who date from the nineteenth century, 
when the earth was still horizontal and the buildings perpendicu- 
lar. We cannot judge the landscape properly as we look down, 
for everything is tilted. Isolated objects are not so puzzling; a 
tree, a wave, a hat, a jewel, an old gentleman’s bald head look 
much as they always did. But the relation between objects — 
that we cannot estimate, and that is why the verdict must be left 
to another generation. I have not the least faith that anything 
which we now value will survive historically (something which 
we should have valued may evolve, but that is a different proposi- 

238 



VIRGINIA WCMDLF 


tion) ; and maybe another generation will dismiss Virginia Woolf 
as worthless and tiresome. However, this is not my opinion, nor 
I think yours; we still have the word, and I wonder whether I 
cannot transmit some honour to her from the university she so 
admired, and from the central building of that university. She 
would receive the homage a little mockingly, for she was some- 
what astringent over the academic position of women. “What ? I 
in the Senate House ? ” she might say. “Are you sure that is quite 
proper? And why, if you want to discuss my books, need you 
first disguise yourselves in caps and gowns?” But I think she 
would be pleased. She loved Cambridge. Indeed, I cherish a 
private fancy that she once took her degree here. She, who could 
disguise herself as a member of the suite of the Sultan of Zanzibar, 
or black her face to go aboard a Dreadnought as an Ethiopian^ — 
she could surely have hoaxed our innocent praelectors, and, 
kneeling in this very spot, have presented to the Vice-Chancellor 
the exquisite but dubious head of Orlando. 

There is, after all, one little lifeline to catch hold of: she liked 
writing. 

These words, which usually mean so little, must be applied to 
her with all possible intensity. She liked receiving sensations — 
sights, sounds, tastes — passing them through her mind, where they 
encountered theories and memories, and then bringing them out 
again, through a pen, onto a bit of paper. Now began the higher 
delights of authorship. For these pen-marks on paper were only 
the prelude to writing, little more than marks on a wall. They 
had to be combined, arranged, emphasized here, eliminated 
there, new relationships had to be generated, new pen-marks 
born, until out of the interactions something, one thing, one, 
arose. This one thing, whether it was a novel or an essay or a 
short story or a biography or a private paper to be read to her 
friends, was, if it was successful, itself analogous to a sensation. 
Although it was so complex and intellectual, although it might be 
large and heavy with facts, it was akin to the very simple things 
which had started it off, to the sights, sounds, tastes. It could 
best be described as we describe them. For it was not about 
something. It was something. This is obvious in “aesthetic” 
works, like Kew Gardens and Mrs Dallowqy; it is less obvious in a 
work of learning, like the Roger Fry y yet here too the analogy holds. 

^ See Adrian Stephen, The Dreadnought Hoax, See, still more, an unpublished 
paper which she herself once wrote for a Women’s Institute, leaving it help- 
less with laughter. 


239 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


We know, from an article by R. C. Trevelyan, that she had, when 
writing it, a notion corresponding to the notion of a musical 
composition. In the first chapter she stated the themes, in the 
subsequent chapters she? developed them separately, and she tried 
to bring them all in again at the end. Ihc biography is duly 
about Fry. But it is something else too; it is one thing, one. 

She liked writing with an intensity which few writers have 
attained, or even desired. Most of them write with half an eye 
on their royalties, half an eye on their critics, and a third half- 
eye on improving the world, which leaves them with only half 
an eye for the task on which she concentrated her entire vision. 
She would not look elsewhere, and her circumstances combined 
with her temperament to focus her. Money she had not to 
consider, because she possessed a private income, and though 
financial independence is not always a safeguard against com- 
mercialism it was in her case. Critics she never considered while 
she was writing, although she could be attentive to them and even 
humble afterwards. Improving the world she would not consider, 
on the ground that the world is man-made, and that she, a 
woman, had no responsibility for the mess. This last opinion is a 
curious one, and I shall be returning to it; still, she held it, it 
completed the circle of her defences, and neither the desire for 
money nor the desire for reputation nor philanthropy could 
influence her. She had a singleness of purpose which will not 
recur in this country for many years, and writers who have liked 
writing as she liked it have not indeed been common in any age. 

Now the pitfall for such an author is obvious. It is the Palace 
of Art, it is that bottomless chasm of dullness which pretends to 
be a palace, all glorious with corridors and domes, but which is 
really a dreadful hole into which the unwary aesthete may 
tumble, to be seen no more. She has all the aesthete’s charac- 
teristics: selects and manipulates her impressions; is not a great 
creator of character; enforces patterns on her books; has no 
great cause at heart. So how did she avoid her appropriate pit- 
fall and remain up in the fresh air, where we can hear the sound 
of the stable-boy’s boots, or boats bumping, or Big Ben; where 
we can taste really new bread, and touch real dahlias ? 

She had a sense of humour, no doubt, but our answer must 
go a little deeper than that hoary nostrum. She escaped, I think, 
because she liked writing for fun. Her pen amused her, and in 
the midst of writing seriously this other delight would spurt 
through. A litdc essay called On Being HI exemplifies this. It 


240 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


starts with the thesis that illness in literature is seldom handled 
properly (De Quincey and Proust were exceptional), that the 
body is treated by novelists as if it were a sheet of glass through 
which the soul gazes, and that this is contrary to experience. 
There are possibilities in the thesis, but she soon wearies of 
exploring them. Off she goes amusing herself, and after half a 
dozen pages she is writing entirely for fun, caricaturing the type 
of people who visit sick-rooms, insisting that Augustus Hare’s 
Two Noble Lives is the book an invalid most demands, and so on. 
She could describe illness if she chose — for instance, in The 
Voyage Out — but she gaily forgets it in On Being IlL The essay is 
slight, still it does neatly illustrate the habit of her mind. Litera- 
ture was her merry-go-round as well as her study. This makes her 
amusing to read, and it also saves her from the Palace of Art. 
For you cannot enter the Palace of Art, therein to dwell, if you 
are tempted from time to time to play the fool. Lord Tennyson 
did not consider that. His remedy, you remember, was that the 
Palace would be purified when it was inhabited by all mankind, 
all behaving seriously at once. Virginia Woolf found a simpler 
and a sounder solution. 

No doubt there is a danger here — there is danger everywhere. 
She might have become a glorified disease^ who frittered away her 
broader effects by mischievousness, and she did give that impres- 
sion to some who met her in the flesh ; there were moments when 
she could scarcely see the busts for the moustaches she pencilled 
on them, and when the bust was a modern one, whether of a 
gentleman in a top-hat or of a youth on a pylon, it had no chance 
of remaining sublime. But in her writing, even in her light writ- 
ing, central control entered. She was master of her complicated 
equipment, and, though most of us like to write sometimes 
seriously and sometimes in fun, few of us can so manage the two 
impulses that they speed each other up, as hers did. 

The above remarks arc more or less introductory. It seems 
convenient now to recall what she did write, and to say a little 
about her development. She began back in 1915 with The 
Voyage Out — a strange, tragic, inspired novel about English tourists 
in an impossible South American hotel; her passion for truth 
is here already, mainly in the form of atheism, and her passion 
for wisdom is here in the form of music. The book made a deep 
impression upon the few people who read it. Its successor. Night 
and Dayy disappointed them. This is an exercise in classical 
realism, and contains all that has characterized English fiction, 


241 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


for good and evil, during the last two hundred years: faith in 
personal relations, recourse to humorous side-shows, geographical 
exactitude, insistence on petty social differences: indeed most of 
the devices she so gaily derides in Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown, 
The style has been normalized and dulled. But at the same time 
she published two short stories, Kew Gardens and The Mark on 
the Wall, These are neither dull nor normal; lovely little things; 
her style trails after her 2is she walks and talks, catching up dust 
and grass in its folds, and instead of the precision of the earlier 
writing we have something more elusive than had yet been 
achieved in English. Lovely little things, but they seemed to lead 
nowhere, they were all tiny dots and coloured blobs, they were 
an inspired breathlessness, they were a beautiful droning or 
gasping which trusted to luck. They were perfect as far as they 
went, but that was not far, and none of us guessed that out of 
the pollen of those flowers would come the trees of the future. 
Consequently when Jacobis Room appeared in 1922 we were 
tremendously surprised. The style and sensitiveness of Kew 
Gardens remained, but they were applied to human relationships, 
and to the structure of society. The blobs of colour continue to 
drift past, but in their midst, interrupting their course like a 
closely sealed jar, stands the solid figure of a young man. The 
improbable has occurred : a method essentially poetic and appa- 
rently trifling has been applied to fiction. She was still uncertain 
of the possibilities of the new technique, and Jacob's Room is an 
uneven little book, but it represents her great departure, and her 
abandonment of the false start of Night and Day, It leads on to 
her genius in its fullness: to Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse 
(1927) and The Waves (1931). These successful works are all 
suffused with poetry and enclosed in it. Mrs Dalloway has the 
framework of a London summer’s day, down which go spiralling 
two fates: the fate of the sensitive worldly hostess, and the fate 
of the sensitive obscure maniac; though they never touch they are 
closely connected, and at the same moment we lose sight of them 
both. It is a civilized book, and it was written from personal ex- 
perience. In her work, as in her private problems, she was always 
civilized and sane on the subject of madness. She pared the 
edges off this particular malady, she tied it down to being a 
malady, and robbed it of the evil magic it has acquired through 
timid or careless thinking; here is one of tlie gifo we have to 
thank her for. To the Lighthouse is, however, a much greater 
achievement, partly because the chief characters in it, Mr and 

242 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


Mrs Ramsay, are so interesting. They hold us, we think of them 
away from their surroundings, and yet they are in accord with 
those surroundings, with the poetic scheme. To the Lighthouse is in 
three movements. It has been called a novel in sonata form, and 
certainly the slow central section, conveying the passing of time, 
does demand a musical analogy. We have, when reading it, the 
rare pleasure of inhabiting two worlds at once, a pleasure only 
art can give : the world where a little boy wants to go to a light- 
house but never manages it until, with changed emotions, he goes 
there as a young man ; and the world where there is pattern, and 
this world is emphasized by passing much of the observation 
through the mind of Lily Briscoe, who is a painter. Then comes 
The Waves, Pattern here is supreme — ^indeed it is italicized. And 
between the motions of the sun and the waters, which preface 
each section, stretch, without interruption, conversation, words 
in inverted commas. It is a strange conversation, for the six 
characters, Bernard, Neville, Louis, Susan, Jinny, Rhoda, seldom 
address one another, and it is even possible to regard them (like 
Mrs Dalloway and Septimus) as different facets of one single 
person. Yet they do not conduct internal monologues, they are in 
touch amongst themselves, and they all touch the character who 
never speaks, Percival. At the end, most perfectly balancing 
their scheme, Bernard, the would-be novelist, sums up, and the 
pattern fades out. The Waves is an extraordinary achievement, 
an immense extension of the possibilities of Kew Gardens and 
Jacobis Room, It is trembling on the edge. A little less — and it 
would lose its poetry. A little more — and it would be over into 
the abyss, and be dull and arty. It is her greatest book, though 
To the Lighthouse is my favourite. 

It was followed by The Tears, This is another experiment in 
the realistic tradition. It chronicles the fortunes of a family 
through a documented period. As in Night and Day, she deserts 
poetry, and again she fails. But in her posthumous novel Between 
the Acts she returns to the method she understood. Its theme is a 
village pageant, which presents the entire history of England, 
and into which, at the close, the audience is itself drawn, to 
continue that history; “The curtain rose” is its concluding 
phrase. The conception is poetic, and the text of the pageant is 
mostly written in verse. She loved her country — the country 
that is the countryside, and emerges from the unfathomable past. 
She takes us back in this exquisite final tribute, and she points 
us on, and she shows us through her poetic vagueness something 


1 


243 



THE ARTS IN AGllON 


more solid than patriotic history, and something better worth 
dying for. 

Amongst all this fiction, nourishing it and nourished by it, 
grow other works. Two volumes of The Common Reader show the 
breadth of her knowledge and the depth of her literary sympathy; 
let anyone who thinks her an exquisite recluse read what she says 
on Jack Mytton the foxhunter. As a critic she could enter into 
anything — anything lodged in the past, that is to say; with her 
contemporaries she sometimes had difficulties. Then there are 
the biographies, fanciful and actual. Orlando is, I need hardly 
say, an original book, and the first part of it is splendidly written : 
the description of the Great Frost is already received as a “pas- 
sage” in English literature, whatever a passage may be. After the 
transformation of sex things do not go so well; the authoress 
seems unconvinced by her own magic and somewhat fatigued by 
it, and the biography finishes competently rather than brilliantly ; 
it has been a fancy on too large a scale, and we can see her getting 
bored. But Flush is a complete success, and exactly what it sets 
out to be ; the material, the method, the length, accord perfectly, 
it is doggy without being silly, and it docs give us, from the alti- 
tude of the carpet or the sofa-foot, a peep at high poetic per- 
sonages, and a new angle on their ways. The biography of 
Roger Fry — one should not proceed direct from a spaniel to a 
Slade Professor, but Fry would not have minded and spaniels 
mind nothing — reveals a new aspect of her powers, the power to 
suppress herself. She indulges in a pattern, but she never intrudes 
her personality or over-handles her English; respect for her sub- 
ject dominates her, and only occasionally — as in her description 
of the divinely ordered chaos of Fry’s studio with its still-life of 
apples and eggs labelled “please do not touch” — docs she allow 
her fancy to play. Biographies arc too often described as “labours 
of love”, but the Roger Fry really is in this class; one artist is 
writing with affection of another, so that he may be remembered 
and may be justified. 

Finally, there are the feminist books — A Room of One's Own and 
Three Guineas — and several short essays, etc., some of them signifi- 
cant. It is as a novelist that she will be judged. But the rest of her 
work must be remembered, partly on its merits, partly because (as 
William Plomer has pointed out) she is sometimes more of a 
novelist in it than in her novels. 

After this survey, we can state her problem. Like most 
novelists worth reading, she strays from the fictional norm. She 


244 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


dreams, designs, jokes, invokes, observes details, but she docs not 
tell a story or weave a plot, and — can she create character? 
That is her problem’s centre. That is the point where she felt 
herself open to criticism — to the criticisms, for instance, of her 
friend Hugh Walpole. Plot and story could be set aside in 
favour of some other unity, but if one is writing about human 
beings one does want them to seem alive. Did she get her people 
to live? 

Now there seem to be two sorts of life in fiction : life on the 
page, and life eternal. Life on the page she could give; her char- 
acters never seem unreal, however slight or fantastic their linea- 
ments, and they can be trusted to behave appropriately. Life 
eternal she could seldom give; she could seldom so portray a 
character that it was remembered afterwards on its own account, 
as Emma is remembered, for instance, or Dorothea Casaubon, or 
Sophia and Constance in The Old Wives' Tale. What wraiths, 
apart from their context, are the wind sextet from The WaveSy 
or Jacob away ixom Jacob's Room ! They speak no more to us or to 
one another as soon as the page is turned. And this is her great 
difficulty. Holding on with one hand to poetry, she stretches and 
stretches to grasp things which are best gained by letting go of 
poetry. She would not let go, and I think she was quite right, 
though critics who like a novel to be a novel will disagree. She 
was quite right to cling to her specific gift, even if this entailed 
sacrificing something else vital to her art. And she did not always 
have to sacrifice; Mr and Mrs Ramsay do remain with the reader 
afterwards, and so perhaps do Rachel from The Voyage Out and 
Clarissa Dalloway. For the rest — it is impossible to maintain that 
here is an immortal portrait gallery. Socially she is limited to the 
upper-middle professional classes, and she does not even employ 
many types. There is the bleakly honest intellectual (St John 
Hirst, Charles Tansley, Louis, William Dodge), the monumental 
majestic hero (Jacob, Pcrcival), the pompous amorous pillar of 
society (Richard Dalloway as he appears in The Voyage Out, 
Hugh Whitbread), the scholar who cares only for young men 
(Bonamy, Neville), the pernickety independent (Mr Pepper, Mr 
Bankes) ; even the Ramsays are tried out first as the Ambroses. 
As soon as we understand the nature of her equipment, we shall 
see that as regards human beings she did as well as she could. 
Belonging to the world of poetry, but fascinated by another world, 
she is always stretching out from her enchanted tree and snatch- 
ing bits from the flux of daily life as they float past, and out of 


245 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


these bits she builds novels. She would not plunge. And she should 
not have plunged. She might have stayed folded up in her tree 
singing little songs like “Blue and Green” in the Monday or 
Tuesday volume, but fortunately for English literature she did not 
do this either. 

So that is her problem. She is a poet, who wants to write 
something as near to a novel as possible. 

I must pass on to say a little — it ought to be much — about her 
interests. I have emphasized her fondness for writing both 
seriously and in fun, and have tried to indicate how she wrote: 
how she gathered up her material and digested it without 
damaging its freshness, how she rearranged it to form unities, 
how she was a poet who wanted to write novels, how these 
novels bear upon them the marks of their strange gestation — 
some might say the scars. What concerns me now is the material 
itself, her interests, her opinions. And, not to be too vague, I 
will begin with food. 

It is always helpful, when reading her, to look out for the 
passages which describe eating. They are invariably good. 
They are a sharp reminder that here is a woman who is alert 
sensuously. She had an enlightened greediness which gentlemen 
themselves might envy, and which few masculine writers have 
expressed. There is a little too much lamp-oil in George Mere- 
dith’s wine, a little too much paper crackling on Charles Lamb’s 
pork, and no savour whatever in any dish of Henry James’s, but 
when Virginia Woolf mentions nice things they get right into our 
mouths, so far as the edibility of print permits. We taste their 
deliciousness. And when they are not nice we taste them equally, 
our mouths awry now with laughter. I will not torture this great 
university of Oxbridge by reminding it of the exquisite lunch 
which she ate in a don’s room here in the year 1929; such 
memories are now too painful. Nor will I insult the noble college 
of women in this same university — Fernham is its name — by 
reminding it of the deplorable dinner which she ate that same 
evening in its Hall — a dinner so lowering that she had to go to a 
cupboard afterwards and drink something out of a bottle; such 
memories may still be all too true to fact. But I may without 
offence refer to the great dish of Boeuf en Daube which forms the 
centre of the dinner of union in To the Lighthouse, the dinner round 
which all that section of the book coheres, the dinner which 
exhales affection and poetry and loveliness, so that all the charac- 
ters see the best in one another at last and for a moment, and 



VmOINIA WOOLF 


one of them, Lily Briscoe, carries away a recollection of reality. 
Such a dinner cannot be built on a statement beneath a dish- 
cover which the novelist is too indifferent or incompetent to 
remove. Real food is necessary, and this, in fiction as in her home, 
she knew how to provide. The Boeuf en Daube, which had taken 
the cook three days to make and had worried Mrs Ramsay as 
she did her hair, stands before us with “its confusion of savoury 
brown and yellow meats, and its bay leaves and its wine”; we 
peer down the shiny walls of the great casserole and get one of the 
best bits, and, like William Bankes, generally so hard to please, we 
are satisfied. Food with her was not a literary device put in to 
make the book seem real. She put it in because she tasted it, 
because she saw pictures, because she smelt flowers, because she 
heard Bach, because her senses were both exquisite and catholic, 
and were always bringing her first-hand news of the outside 
world. Our debt to her is in part this: she reminds us of the 
importance of sensation in an age which practises brutality and 
recommends ideals. I could have illustrated sensation more 
reputably by quoting the charming passage about the florist’s 
shop in Mrs Dallowayy or the passage where Rachel plays upon 
the cabin piano. Flowers and music are conventional literary 
adjuncts. A good feed isn’t, and that is why I preferred it and 
chose it to represent her reactions. Let me add that she smokes, 
and now let the Boeuf en Daube be carried away. It will never 
come back in our lifetime. It is not for us. But the power to 
appreciate it remains, and the power to appreciate all distinction. 

After the senses, the intellect. She respected knowledge, she 
believed in wisdom. Though she could not be called an optimist, 
she had, very profoundly, the conviction that mind is in action 
against matter, and is winning new footholds in the void. That 
anything would be accomplished by her or in her generation, 
she did not suppose, but the noble blood from which she 
sprang encouraged her to hope. Mr Ramsay, standing by the 
geraniums and trying to think, is not a figure of fun. Nor is this 
university, despite its customs and costumes: she speaks of “the 
light shining there — the light of Cambridge”. 

No light shines now from Cambridge visibly, and this prompts 
the comment that her books were conditioned by her period. 
She could not assimilate this latest threat to our civilization. The 
submarine perhaps. But not the flying fortress or the landifiine. 
The idea that all stone is like grass, and like all flesh may vanish 
in a twinkling, did not enter into her consciousness, and indeed 


247 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


it Will be some time before it can be assimilated by literature. 
She belonged to an age which distinguished sharply between the 
impcrmanency of man and the durability of his monuments, 
and for whom the dome of the British Museum Reading Room 
was almost eternal. Decay she admitted: the delicate gray 
churches in the Strand would not stand for ever; but she sup- 
posed, as we all did, that decay would be gradual. The younger 
generation — the Auden- Isherwood generation as it is convenient 
to call it — saw more clearly here than could she, and she did not 
quite do justice to its vision, any more than she did justice to its 
experiments in technique — she who had been in her time such an 
experimenter. Still, to belong to one’s period is a common failing, 
and she made the most of hers. She respected and acquired 
knowledge, she believed in wisdom. Intellectually, no one can do 
more ; and since she was a poet, not a philosopher or a historian 
or a prophetess, she had not to consider whether wisdom will 
prevail and whether the square upon the oblong, which Rhoda 
built out of the music of Mozart, will ever stand firm upon this 
distracted earth. The square upon the oblong. Order. Justice. 
Truth. She cared for these abstractions, and tried to express 
them through symbols, as an artist must, though she realized the 
inadequacy of symbols. 

, Then the beetle-shaped men come with their violins 
[said Rhoda] ; wait; count; nod; down come their bows. And 
there is ripple and laughter like the dance of olive trees. , . . 

“‘Like* and Tike* and ‘like* — but what is the thing that 
lies beneath the semblance of the thing ? Now that lightning 
has gashed the tree and the flowering branch has fallen . . . 
let me see the thing. There is a square; there is an oblong. 
The players take the square and place it upon the oblong. 
They place it very accurately; they make a perfect dwelling- 
place. Very little is left outside. The structure is now visible; 
what is inchoate is here stated; we are not so various or so 
mean; we have made oblongs and stood them upon squares. 
This is our triumph; this is our consolation. . . 

The consolation, that is to say, of catching sight of abstractions. 
They have to be symbolized, and the square upon the oblong 
is as much a symbol as the dancing olive trees, but because of 
its starkness it comes nearer to conveying what she seeks. Seeking 
it, “we are not so various or so mean**; we have added to the 
human heritage and reaffirmed wisdom. 

The next of her interests which has to be considered is society. 

248 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


She was not confined to sensations and intellcctualism. She was a 
social creature, with an outlook both warm and shrewd. But it 
was a peculiar outlook, and we can best get at it by looking at a 
very peculiar side of her : her feminism. 

Feminism inspired one of the most brilliant of her books — 
the charming and persuasive A Room of Oner's Own ; it contains the 
Oxbridge lunch and the Fcrnham dinner, also the immortal 
encounter with the beadle when she tried to walk on the college 
grass, and the touching reconstruction of Shakespeare’s sister — 
Shakespeare’s equal in genius, but she perished because she had 
no position or money, and that has been the fate of women 
through the ages. But feminism is also responsible for the worst 
of her books — the cantankerous Three Guineas — and for the less 
successful streaks in Orlando, There are spots of it all over her 
work, and it was constantly in her mind. She was convinced 
that society is man-made, that the chief occupations of men arc 
the shedding of blood, the making of money, the giving of orders 
and the wearing of uniforms, and that none of these occupations 
is admirable. Women dress up for fun or prettiness, men for 
pomposity, and she had no mercy on the judge in his wig, the 
general in his bits and bobs of ribbon, the bishop in his robes, or 
even on the harmless don in his gown. She felt that all these mum- 
mers were putting something across over which women had never 
been consulted, and which she at any rate disliked. She declined 
to cooperate, in theory, and sometimes in fact. She refused to sit 
on committees or to sign appeals, on the ground that women 
must not condone this tragic male-made mess, or accept the 
crumbs of power which men throw them occasionally from their 
hideous feast. Like Lysistrata, she withdrew. 

In my judgement there is something old-fashioned about this 
extreme feminism; it dates back to her suffragette youth of the 
191OS, when men kissed girls to distract them from wanting the 
vote, and very properly provoked her wrath. By the 1930s she 
had much less to complain of, and seems to keep on grumbling 
from habit. She complained, and rightly, that though women 
today have won admission into the professions and trades they 
usually encounter a male conspiracy when they try to get to the 
top. But she did not appreciate that the conspiracy is weakening 
yearly, and that before long women will be quite as powerful 
for good or evil as men. She was sensible about the past; a*bout 
the present she was sometimes unreasonable. However, I speak 
as a man here, and as an elderly one. The best judges of her 


249 



THE ARTS IN AC3TION 


feminism are neither elderly men nor even elderly women, but 
young women. If they, if the students of Fernham, think that it 
expresses an existent grievance, they arc right. 

She felt herself to be not only a woman but a lady, and this 
gives a further twist to her social outlook. She made no bones 
about it. She was a lady, by birth and upbringing, and it was 
no use being cowardly about it, and pretending that her mother 
had turned a mangle, or that her father Sir Leslie had been a 
plasterer’s mate. Working-class writers often mentioned their 
origins, and were respected for doing so. Very well; she would 
mention hers. And her snobbery — for she was a snob — has more 
courage in it than arrogance. It is connected with her insatiable 
honesty, and is not, like the snobbery of Clarissa Dalloway, bland 
and frilled and unconsciously sinking into the best armchair. It 
is more like the snobbery of Kitty when she goes to tea with the 
Robsons ; it stands up like a target for anyone to aim at who wants 
to. In her introduction to Life As We Have Known It (a collection 
of biographies of working-class women edited by Margaret 
Llewellyn Davies) she faces the fire. “One could not be Mrs 
Giles of Durham, because one’s body had never stood at the 
wash-tub ; one’s hands had never wrung and scrubbed and chop- 
ped up whatever the meat may be that makes a miner’s supper. ” 
This is not disarming, and it is not intended to disarm. And, if 
one said to her that she could after all find out what meat a 
miner docs have for his supper if she took a little trouble, she 
would retort that this wouldn’t help her to chop it up, and that it 
is not by knowing things but by doing things tliat one enters into 
the lives of people who do things. And she was not going to chop 
up meat. She would chop it badly, and waste her time. She was 
not going to wring and scrub when what she liked doing and could 
do was write. To murmurs of “ Lucky lady you ! ” she replied, “ I 
am a lady,” and went on writing. “There aren’t going to be no 
more ladies. ’Ear that?” She heard. Without rancour or sur- 
prise or alarm, she heard, and drove her pen the faster. For if, as 
seems probable, these particular creatures are to be extinguished, 
how important that the last of them should get down her impres- 
sions of the world and unify them into a book! If she didn’t, no 
one else would. Mrs Giles of Durham wouldn’t. Mrs Giles would 
write differently, and might write better, but she could not 
produce The Waves, or a life of Roger Fry. 

There is an admirable hardness here, so far as hardness can be 
admirable. There is not much sympathy, and I do not think 

250 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


she was sympathetic. She could be charming to individuals, 
working-class and otherwise, but it was her curiosity and her 
honesty that motivated her. And we must remember that 
sympathy, for her, entailed a tremendous and exhausting process, 
not lightly to be entered on. It was not a half-crown or a kind 
word or a good deed or a philanthropic sermon or a godlike 
gesture ; it was adding the sorrows of another to one’s own. Half 
fancifully, but wholly seriously, she writes : 

But sympathy we cannot have. Wisest Fate says no. If her 
children, weighted as they already are with sorrow, were to 
take on them that burden too, adding in imagination other 
pains to their own, buildings would cease to rise ; roads would 
peter out into grassy tracks; there would be an end of music 
and of painting; one great sigh alone would rise to Heaven, 
and the only attitudes for men and women would be those of 
horror and despair. 

Here perhaps is the reason why she cannot be warmer and more 
human about Mrs Giles of Durham. 

This detachment from the working classes and labour re- 
inforces the detachment caused by her feminism, and her attitude 
to society was in consequence aloof and angular. She was 
fascinated, she was unafraid, but she detested mateyness, and she 
would make no concessions to popular journalism, and the “let’s 
all be friendly together” stunt. To the crowd — so far as such 
an entity exists — she was very jolly, but she handed out no 
bouquets to the middlemen who have arrogated to themselves 
the right of interpreting the crowd, and get paid for doing so in 
the daily press and on the wireless. These middlemen form 
after all a very small clique — larger than the Bloomsbury they 
so tirelessly denounce, but a mere drop in the ocean of humanity. 
And since it was a drop whose distinction was proportionate to 
its size she saw no reason to conciliate it. 

“Now to sum up,” says Bernard in the last section of The 
Waves, That I cannot do, for reasons already given : the material 
is so rich and contradictory, and ours is not a good vintage 
year for judgements. I have gone from point to point as best I 
could, from her method of writing to her books, from her prob- 
lems as a poet-novelist to her problems as a woman and as a lady. 
And I have tried to speak of her with the directness which she 
would wish, and which could alone honour her. But how are all 
the points to be combined ? What is the pattern resultant? The 


251 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


best I can do is to quote Bernard again. “The illusion is upon 
me,” he says, “that something adheres for a moment, has round- 
ness, weight, depth, is completed. This, for the moment, seems 
to be [her] life.” Bernard puts it well. But, as Rhoda indicated 
in that earlier quotation, these words are only similes, compari- 
sons with physical substances, and what one wants is the thing 
that lies beneath the semblance of the thing; that alone satisfies, 
that alone makes the full statement. 

Whatever the final pattern, I am sure it will not be a depressing 
one. Like all her friends, I miss her greatly — I knew her ever 
since she started writing. But this is a personal matter, and I 
am sure that there is no case for lamentation here, or for the 
obituary note. Virginia Woolf got through an immense amount 
of work, she gave acute pleasure in new ways, she pushed the 
light of the English language a little further against darkness. 
Those arc facts. The epitaph of such an artist cannot be written 
by the vulgar-minded or by the lugubrious. They will try, 
indeed they have already tried, but their words make no sense. 
It is wiser, it is safer, to regard her career as a triumphant one. 
She triumphed over what are primly called “difficulties”, and she 
also triumphed in the positive sense: she brought in the spoils. 
And sometimes it is as a row of little silver cups that I see her 
work gleaming. “These trophies,” the inscription runs, “were 
won by the mind from matter, its enemy and its friend. ” 

[1941] 



Two Books by T. S. Eliot 


/ Notes towards the Definition of Culture 

There is T. S. Eliot who is a poet, and there arc also two Mr 
Eliots who write criticism. The poet docs not enter into this 
particular volume; his great achievement lies elsewhere, and it 
has been awarded the highest possible honours, both in this 
country and abroad. 

The two critics do enter. They dominate the scene, and al- 
though they never contradict one another there is a difference 
between them which must be noted. They differ according to the 
audiences they address. Most of the book is addressed to sophisti- 
cated and highly educated people, and it is, on the whole, not 
satisfactory. At the end of it, three broadcasts are printed ; these 
were intended for popular audiences and they are a success. It 
would seem that, when Mr Eliot is wishing to instruct, his prose 
remains lucid, considerate and assured; his excellent handbook on 
Dante is an example of this. When on the other hand he is 
writing for people who may answer him back, he becomes wary 
and loads his sentences with qualifications and precautions which 
make them heavy. The very title of the book is ominous. It is not 
about culture nor about a definition of culture, nor does it even 
offer notes on a definition. It offers “ notes towards the definition 
By its caution and astuteness the title forestalls many possible 
objections. But what cumbersome English ! 

The broadcasts were intended for a German-speaking audience, 
and were translated into German for that purpose. In the first 
of them, Mr Eliot speaks of the unity of European culture, and 
ascribes the richness of English to our continental connection. 
In the second, he describes the break-up of European culture 
during the last twenty years, and refers to the Criterion^ the 
admirable review which he once edited. The third broadcast 
is the least satisfactory, because he advances in it towards a 
definition of culture, and then retires without making it clear 
how far he has been. Culture is connected with the family, if 
we interpret the family rightly. It is also connected — ^in certain 
circumstances — ^with much else. It is assuredly connected with 


253 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


Christianity. Here we reach firmer ground. We feel — and he 
would wish us to feel — that his religious faith is more important 
to him than anything else, and that art and literature are only 
valid in their relation to it. The relation may be negative: 
“only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a 
Nietzsche.” But as far as Europe is concerned the relation must 
exist. Where there is not Christianity there is nothing. And 
it has to be Christianity of an approved type: Mr Eliot grows 
increasingly theological. Smartly over the knuckles does he rap 
a certain book called The Churches Survey Their Task, They 
surveyed it wrongly. The rap occurs in the main body of the 
work. Here we may pursue, in greater detail and with superior 
caution, the ideas exposed in the broadcasts. There is much that 
is subde and profound, much that is provocative, and we are 
bound to admit at the end that culture is even more important 
than we guessed. Unfortunately she has not become more 
accessible. Through the criss-cross of reservations and postulates 
we can scarcely catch sight of her outline, or see where she is 
going. 

The book is prefaced by a quotation from Lord Acton: “I 
think our studies ought to be all but purposeless.” The quotation 
does not seem appropriate in view of Mr Eliot’s purposeful 
interest in polemical Christianity. Acton, too, was a deeply 
religious man. But he was also a convinced liberal, and Mr Eliot, 
for all his many-sidedness, cannot be described as that. 

[1949] 


2 The Cocktail Party: A Comedy 

A comedy where one of the characters is crucified on an ant- 
hill is not comic in the usual sense of the word, and readers of The 
Cocktail Party will do well to arm themselves against difficulties. 
On the stage, those difficulties may diminish ; the play was well 
received when it was produced at the Edinburgh Festival last 
year, and it is having a tremendous success in New York. The 
faces and voices and clothes of the characters may help to establish 
a perspective which is imobtainable through words. 

Where docs the mere reader find himself? 

In an operating-theatre — a spiritual one. He has realized in 
the first act that something is wrong with some of the characters, 
perhaps with all of them; they chatter miserably and endlessly, 

254 



THE COCKTAIL PARTY 


and drink unprofitably, and Lavinia, the wife who should be 
helping Edward her husband to throw the party, has just deserted 
him. In the second act the reader gets a dramatic surprise — his 
big laugh, if the phrase be permissible. He discovers that three 
of the worthless guests were really doctors, who were mingling 
with their unsuspecting patients in order to gather information 
about them. Surgeon-in-chicf is Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly, 
previously an anonymous buffoon and now enthroned in his 
consulting-room. With him work Julia, previously mistaken for 
an ill-natured feckless old woman, and Alex, mistaken for a globe- 
trotter with pseudo-connections which turn out to be genuine. 
The patients arrive. Edward and Lavinia are confronted with 
one another, to their mutual indignation, and the similarity of 
their cases emphasized. They are refused any spectacular cure. 
They are followed by Celia, the girl with whom Edward has 
intrigued. Celia’s position is different, is unique. She has a sense 
of sin — not for anything specific, but a general sense, and she 
desires to “atone”. A way is pointed out to her, and accepted by 
her, no fee is charged her, and she is assigned to a “sanatorium” 
the outcome of which no one can foresee, not even the experts. A 
fourth patient is expected, but he is too much immersed in 
worldliness, and does not come. The act ends in a solemn and 
touching libation to the safety of Celia. It has become clear to the 
reader that he is actually in the presence of the Church, which is 
directing its children, through its priesthood, on their appropriate 
paths. 

In the third act he learns what has happened. Edward and 
Lavinia are reconciled, are living together happily and civilly in 
their old flat, and are about to throw yet another cocktail party. 
It is the best they can achieve. Their quarrel was not important, 
nor is their reconciliation. The worldly young man has become 
still more worldly. As for Celia, we hear that she has chosen 
the path of Devotion and Dedication, has become a nurse and 
a nun, and has perished agonizingly amongst savages. Her 
sufferings arc dwelt on, are indeed gloated over, and no doubt 
this is consonant with the author’s religious outlook and with his 
“comedy”. But aesthetically the sufferings disturb the reader 
and distract him. The Christian ethic of atonement, which has 
been impending over his head since the end of the second act, 
comes down with too sudden a bump. He hears the d6ctor- 
priests analysing the successful martyrdom as they sip their drinks, 
and he wonders. 


255 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


The difficulties of The Cocktail Party do not extend to its diction. 
It is most beautifully and lucidly written. T. S. Eliot can do 
whatever he likes with the English language. This time he has 
selected a demure chatt^ verse form which seems to be like prose, 
but it is full of turns and subtle echoes, and always open for the 
emotional intensity he occasionally needs. On the stage, such 
diction may well carry all before it, and, reinforced by sound 
stagecraft, may place affairs in a less puzzling perspective. 

[1950] 



The Ascent of F6 


This play is not easy to focus. It is short and straightforward, yet 
at least four pairs of spectacles are necessary before wc can examine 
it properly. Let us start by looking at it through a heroic pair. 

Behold Michael Ransom, known to his friends as M.F. ! He 
is a gifted, sensitive, ascetic, altruistic mountaineer, who crowns 
a noble life with a glorious death. Aeroplanes locate his body on 
the summit of the virgin peak known as F6, which he alone has 
scaled. His body perishes, his name liveth for evermore. A 
national hero, akin to Colonel Lawrence in temperament and to 
Captain Scott in fate — that is what we see through this pair of 
spectacles, but the play is by Messrs Auden and Isherwood, and 
the spectacles soon slip off the nose and smash into nasty splinters. 
Try another pair. 

Try the politico-economic outlook. F6 now appears to be 
situated on the boundary of two colonies, British Sudoland and 
Ostnian Sudoland, and the expedition to scale it is really a 
political ramp. The British and the Ostnians arc racing one 
another to the top, for reasons of prestige, and if the British lose 
they will have trouble with the natives down in the coffee 
plantations, and no dividends. Thus viewed, the play becomes 
a satire of familiar type, the type instituted over thirty years ago 
by Hilaire Belloc in his brilliant novel Mr Burden, The situation 
is old, the machinery up-to-date, for Auden and Isherwood can 
show us the working-up of public opinion through broadcasting. 
Little Mr and Mrs Everyman in their poky flat — they arc caught 
by the F6 propaganda, they listen spellbound to the important 
personages who come to the microphone; as they hear about 
the terrible mountain and the glorious young man, their own 
lives become less drab and boring, and they actually dash off 
and have a weekend at Hove, though they can ill afford it, as 
they realize on their return. “He belongs to us now,” they cry, 
as they gaze at the obelisk erected to Ransom, after his death, 
by Big Business. Sudoland is safe. The natives work. The coffee 
comes. The curtain falls. 


257 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


But focus again; this time upon Ransom himself. F6 now 
appears as a test for his character, which he fails to surmount. 
He suffers from the last infirmity of noble minds: thinking he 
pursues virtue and knowledge, he really pursues power. And at 
the crisis, in the nightmare-cloud on the summit, he sees that 
his motive has been impure, and, as evidence of this, the ghosts 
of the friends whom he has killed. He has sacrificed them in 
devoting himself. He had tried to turn back, but as soon as he 
set foot on the mountain all were doomed. 

Why is F6 so fatal? Ghormopuloda the natives call it, and 
it is haunted by a demon, they say. There is a monastery by 
the upper glacier, and the monks there spend their time less idly 
than might be supposed, restraining the demon by their medita- 
tions from irrupting onto the plains. The abbot explains to 
Ransom that the demon takes different forms for its temptations ; 
he docs not reveal that to Ransom himself it will take the form 
of his own mother. Mrs Ransom has appeared earlier in the 
play. It is she who made her son go, when he shrank from the 
temptation of power. She wants him to be brave, for her sake, 
and to be happy, provided she supervises his happiness. Cornelia, 
the mother of the Gracchi! For her other son, James, is the 
politician who organizes the ramp. Cornelia-Jocasta! For our 
final pair of spectacles is provided by Freud. When the cloud 
lifts from the summit of the mountain, Ransom finds his mother 
waiting for him, reabsorbing that which she has sent forth, 
frustrating that which she has created. He has never escaped 
her. He re-enters the womb. The lyric finale suggests Peer Gynt^ 
but there is a bitterness in it which neither Ase nor Solveig 
conveys. She sings to her little boy: 

Reindeer are coming to drive you away 
Over the snow on an ebony sleigh. 

Over the mountain and over the sea 
You shall go happy and handsome and free. 

But the chorus retorts: 

True, Love finally is great. 

Greater than all; but large the hate. 

Far larger than Man can ever estimate. 

Mother-love, usually sacrosanct, becomes a nasty customer in 
this exciting play. 


258 



*‘the ascent of f6’* 


The Ascent of F6 is a tragedy in a modern mode, full of funni- 
ness and wisecracks. It is not an entertainment, for all its light- 
heartedness, because its details fit into its grave general plan. 
Unlike its predecessor. The Dog beneath the Skin, it moves onward 
instead of after its own tail; the changes from poetry to prose, 
from monastery to mike, advance the action, the amusing sub- 
ordinate characters never blur the genius and the pathos of 
Ransom. 

[1936] 


359 



The Enchafid Flood 


T. E. Lawrence, that desert hero, once told me that he did not 
think highly of the sea. He considered it overrated. He enjoyed 
teasing sailormen and found them easy game, and when on board 
would make such remarks to them as, “Fve been sitting upstairs 
on the veranda. I think I’ll go now and rest in my room.” Their 
infuriated reactions amused him. He never crossed the line, 
I think, but he would have regarded that ordeal as an oppor- 
tunity for experiencing vulgarity. He was the aggressive land- 
lubber — a refreshing type and a modern one. The landlubber 
gets covered with tar and chucked overboard, he turns green and 
is sick, but he has had his laugh and his say. He has made fun 
of the sea. 

Sacrilege! 

Yet the sea today certainly is in retreat. Occasionally it 
reasserts itself, as in the Kon-Tiki expedition, and occasionally, 
through the fringe of oil and dead birds and the chonking and 
bobbing of metal objects, we catch a glimpse of it from the 
shore. But it is in retreat poetically. A poet is needed to arrest 
it, to restore Neptune his majesty, to wet Canute his feet, to 
float the Old Man in the Boat. Auden is such a poet. He has 
the necessary power, and a contemporary vision that can include 
the past. He takes us back to the romantics, including Lear, he 
lends us their ears and their fears, and with their help revivifies 
the mass of water from whose shallows we came, and contrasts 
that mass with the desert, into which we try to retreat, and with 
the City, which we are trying to build and have never built. 
The nineteenth century helps him — Wordsworth, Shelley, Blake, 
Tennyson, Melville, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Ibsen, Kierkegaard. 
They understand the expedition, the setting-out, the heroic leap, 
and sometimes they understand how expeditions end. The age 
of reason cannot help. Voltaire, Rousseau understand nothing. 
They cannot with their common sense interpret this trinity of 
Sea, Desert, City. They mock on, mock on. And, their salutary 
mirth in my ears, I turn me to The Enchafid Flood. 

260 



‘‘the enchaf^d flood” 


It reprints lectures. Critics who have decided that lectures 
must not be reprinted will doubtless complain of it on this account ; 
anyhow it is a good old game, complaining of Auden, and a safe 
one. The admonitory note, the professional quote, are certainly 
present in him, but underlying them is imaginative passion, and 
the words “We must love one another or die”. The effort to 
grasp the universe, and where it threatens us, persists here as in 
his poems. The threat alters because we alter, and neither seas 
nor deserts now menace directly. They are symbols. And he 
plunges us into that world of symbols which is so chancy in 
its effects, and from which we emerge illuminated, or dazed. 
For myself, I am not too dazed. That is what happens to 
me when reading this writer. He elicits a response which I 
cannot always explain. Because he once wrote “Wc must love 
one another or die”, he can command me to follow him. 

The first section, “The Sea and the Desert”, contrasts and com- 
pares these protagonists. They are alike in that they are wilder- 
nesses, which beckon to the outlaw and the hero, and they both 
contain earthly paradises — the Happy Island and the Oasis re- 
spectively. They differ in that the sea breeds life. The blessed 
creatures and the slimy things seen by the Ancient Mariner dwell 
there, so does Moby Dick; it is wild and lonely but vital. To 
the city of today — the squalid unbuilt or ruined city — the sea 
still calls, though its waters choke and destroy us as soon as they 
are tasted. Its romance is more powerful than the desert’s — 
and T. E. Lawrence knew this really. 

The second section, “The Stone and the Shell”, interprets a 
dream of Wordsworth’s with which the book started. Words- 
worth dreamt that he encountered a knight, half Ishmael and 
half Don Quixote, who held in the one hand a stone, which 
belongs to the desert and symbolizes precise knowledge, and in 
the other hand a shell, symbolic of poetry and prophecy, and 
murmurous of the sea. Both the stone and the shell are needed 
for the perfect city, but the knight must know how to control 
their opposing magics. He cannot, the waters gain on him, and 
Wordsworth awakes. Auden has at this point much symbol- 
ism on his hands — an extensive bag of tricks. He too fails to 
control it, I think ; anyhow this is the section of the book where 
I found myself getting dazed. I felt I had strayed into a con- 
juror’s parlour, and that the objects hurtling around me Were 
not real. It is a feeling one often experiences when reading the 
romantics, and it comes and it goes. 

261 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


It has gone in the final section. This is called “Ishmael — 
Don Quixote”. The two types of heroes are analysed, Ishmael 
more particularly, and there is a discussion of Moby Dick. 
Melville is very profoundly explored today, especially in the 
United States, and like all ploughed-up authors his surface has 
got rather bumpy. Fortunately Auden is a poet, who under- 
stands what poems feel like as well as what they mean, and who 
does not rely too much upon incest and castration. The sea 
guides him — perhaps through his Icelandic blood. Real and 
symbolic voyages coincide and by the end of the discussion we 
have a clearer vision of Ahab’s tragedy. 

The EnchafM Flood, it should now appear, is itself a poem. 
Though its tone is critical, it is not constructed like a lecture 
course or a thesis. Brooding in it is the ruined or unbuilt city, 
and we must either build it or die. We cannot escape any more 
to the sands or the waves and pretend they are our destiny. We 
have annihilated time and space, we have furrowed the desert and 
spanned the sea, only to find at the end of every vista our own 
unattractive features. What remains for us, whither shall we 
turn? To the city which we have not yet built, to the unborn 
polity, to the new heroism. 

The heroic image [today] is not the nomad wanderer through 
the desert or over the ocean, but the less exciting figure of the 
builder, who renews the ruined walls of the city. Our tempta- 
tions arc not theirs. We are less likely to be tempted by soli- 
tude into Promethean pride : we are far more likely to become 
cowards in the face of the tyrant who would compel us to lie 
in the service of the False City. It is not madness we need to 
flee but prostitution. Let us, reading the logs of their fatal but 
heroic voyages, remember their courage. 

Auden’s hope — reinforced in his case by Christian dogma — is 
the world’s hope and its only hope. For some of us who are 
non-Christian there still remains the comfort of the non-human, 
the relief, when we look up at the stars, of realizing that they are 
uninhabitable. But not there for any of us lies our work or our 
home. 

[1951] 


a6a 



Forrest Reid 


When one has been friends with a writer for thirty-five years, 
and he dies, and one is asked to write about him — well, one 
wishes to write about him, but the books recede, and little details, 
of doubtful interest to the public, take their place. No doubt 
Forrest Reid’s trilogy of Young Tom^ The Retreat and Uncle Stephen 
is a unique chronicle of boyhood. No doubt, again. Apostate 
is a memorable spiritual biography. Nor will Illustrators of the 
Sixties be superseded. But smaller things intrude. Moreover, to 
those who knew and loved him, he was more than a creator of 
books. He existed in his own right, and by the right of being 
unlike anyone else. His integrity, his affection, his patience and 
humorous irritability, his prejudices and occasional ruefulness 
about them — how can it all be conveyed without overdoing the 
tang or missing it out? Good temper, bad temper — which was 
it? One didn’t know, didn’t care, only knew that there was a 
great deal of it and that its charm was irresistible. He was the 
most important person in Belfast, and, though it would be too 
much to say that Belfast knew him not, I have sometimes smiled 
to think how little that great city, engaged in its own ponderous 
purposes, dreamed of him or indeed of anything. He who 
dreamed and was partly a dream. A dream compounded not 
only of visions, Mediterranean and Celtic, but of the “moral 
fragrance” which he prized and pursued and diffused. 

Into which falls his voice. “Och, it’ll do you no harm” — of 
whisky. Or “Tea or coffee? Tea, I think. It’s apt to be the more 
successful.” Or “What did he want to use that foul language 
for? Remus only gave him a wee nip.” For Remus and all dogs 
he had unbounded love. For cats he entertained a proportionate 
regard, and his visits to Bloomsbury were rendered tolerable by a 
cemetery, where cats confabulated upon some railcd-in tombs. 
Except for its animals, which included moles, he did not ap- 
preciate England. He came over to the place mainly to play 
croquet, in which he was expert, and, whirled from one cham- 
pionship ground to another in a car, acquired a special view of its 

263 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


geography. Each time it was nicer to him than he expected, 
which showed what he had been thinking in the intervals. 

For his own country, for Northern Ireland, his feeling was 
passionate — a regional feeling, not political, and not hardening 
into theories. Happy the man who has such feelings, happy the 
district for which they are felt ! He has given to the Lagan, and 
Newcastle, Co. Down, and Ballycastle, something which they 
can keep for ever, if they arc worthy. 

He entered no cultural swim, and for this his independence of 
character was responsible. He could not fit into any clique, he 
was never the right shape, and, though not truculent or aggressive, 
he never softened his opinions. For a long time he maintained 
that all women novelists, with the exception of Jane Austen, are 
bad, which did not commend him to the sisterhood. When his 
loyalty was once given it was irremovable. Year in, year out, 
whatever the metropolitan fashions, he reverenced Henry James. 
He had indeed hoped for closer literary contact with James, but 
the Master was scared of The Garden God^ a Platonic but Hellenic 
romance, and somewhat withdrew. Reid was hurt and sur- 
prised, but not affronted. His high estimate of James’s character 
and art did not waver. Another loyalty went out to Walter dc la 
Marc, to whom he has devoted a detailed and affectionate study. 

His critical attitude, especially about poetry, was childish and 
firm. Poems are people. They either evoke a sympathetic 
response from us or they do not, and if they do not we had 
better move away. In his last book, The Milk of Paradise^ he 
writes: “After all, the personal appeal in poetry is everything, 
because without it, for the particular reader concerned, there is 
no poetry.” What a contrast to the highly equipped modern 
critic who, until he has applied his tests and noted how the poem 
reacts to them, cannot know whether the poem is good, and, if 
good, good in what way and how good in that way! Reid kept to 
what he liked. This might have made his outlook arbitrary and 
whimsical, but he was saved here by the inner gravity of his 
spirit, and his natural good taste. In The Milk of Paradise he 
quotes, and discusses on an even note, hackneyed poems like 
“Lucy Gray”, recondite poems like Dobell’s “Orphan’s Song”, 
and controversial excerpts from Poe. There was his heart, thus it 
happened to respond. He left others to their own responses, nor 
was he curious to discover what these were. 

Believing as he did (and as I do) in the past, he would approve 
a reference to our first meeting. It was in 1911, the year The 

264 



FORREST REID 


Bracknels was published. I had written to thank him for that 
delicate and disturbing novel, without knowing who he was or 
where he lived. I received an answer from round the corner. 
We were both of us in Belfast, and from this happy coincidence 
much depended. He and his friends invited me to lunch, the 
first of their endless hospitalities. There was pheasant — a deli- 
cious meal and an attentive dog. In the afternoon we rowed 
through sunlight and shadow up the Lagan, then a lovely stream 
haunted by his sort of ghosts. In the next year, when Following 
Darkness appeared, it was dedicated to me. Perhaps that is why 
I have a special feeling for it. Some critics sensed satanism in its 
title, and became excited. Idiots, they had forgotten Puck’s 
“Following darkness like a dream”. Towards the end of his life, 
he rewrote Following Darkness as Peter Waring, but I have never 
cared to read this later version. The earlier is so connected with 
happy visits to Ireland, with the Mourne Mountains, with cats 
and dogs muddling round a fire, with the glint from his spec- 
tacles and the turns in his voice. 

[1947] 


265 



English Prose 
between 1918 and 1939 

The W. P. Ker Lecture, delivered in the 
University of Glasgow 


This is a period between two wars — the Long Weekend it has 
been called — and some of the books published in it look back- 
ward — like Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer — 
and try to record the tragedy of the past; others look forward and 
try to avert or explain the disaster which overtook Europe in the 
thirties. And even when they are not directly about a war — 
like the works of Lytton Strachey or Joyce or Virginia Woolf — 
they still display unrest or disillusionment or anxiety, they are still 
the products of a civilization which feels itself insecure. The 
French lady, Madame de Sevign^, writing letters during the wars 
of the late seventeenth century, can feel tranquil. The English 
lady, Jane Austen, writing novels in the Napoleonic wars, can 
feel tranquil. Those wars were not total. But no one can write 
during or between our wars and escape their influence. There, 
then, is one obvious characteristic of our prose. It is the product 
of people who have war on their mind. They need not be gloomy 
or hysterical — often they arc gay and sane and brave — but if they 
have any sensitiveness they must realize what a mess the world 
is in, and if they have no sensitiveness they will not be worth 
reading. 

We can conveniently divide the long weekend into two 
periods — the 1920s and the 1930s. The division is not hard-and- 
fast, still it is helpful. The twenties react after a war and recede 
from it, the thirties are apprehensive of a war and are carried 
towards it. The twenties want to enjoy life and to understand 
it; the thirties also want to understand but for a special purpose: 
to preserve civilization. They are less detached. In Life among 
the English Rose Macaulay contrast the two periods neatly: 

The twenties were, as decades go, a good decade; gay, decora- 
tive, intelligent, extravagant, cultured. There were booms in 
photography, Sunday film and theatre clubs, surrealism, steel 

266 



ENGLISH PROSE BETWEEN I918 AND I939 

furniture, faintly obscure poetry, Proust, James Joyce, dancing, 
rink-skating, large paintings on walls of rooms. 

The next decade was more serious, less cultured, less aes- 
thetic, more political. The slump blew like a cold draught at 
its birth, war stormed like forest fire at its close ; between these 
two catastrophes Communists and Fascists battled and 
preached, and eyes turned apprehensively across the North 
Sea towards the alarming menace which had leaped up like 
a strident jack-in-the-box from a beer-cellar to more than a 
throne. 

Rose Macaulay is a wise guide, tolerant, generous-minded, 
liberal, courageous, cheerful, and her judgements of society and 
social values are always sound. She sums up the two decades 
very well. 

But of course there is more to say. There are influences in 
this world more powerful than either peace or war. And we 
cannot get a true idea of our period and the books it produces 
until we look deeper than fashions or politics or the achievements 
and failures of generals. For one thing, there is a huge economic 
movement which has been taking the whole world, Great Britain 
included, from agriculture tow ards ind ustrialism. That began 
about a hundreilandlirty yearTago, but^ince igiB it has acceler- 
ated to an enormous speed, bringing all sorts of changes into 
national and personal life. It has meant organization and plans 
and the boosting of the community. It has meant the destruction 
of feud alism and relationsh ips based on the land, it has meant the 
transference of power from ttie anstocraTTol Sie bureaucra t and 
the manager and the technician. Pgrhaps it will mean democry v. 
bi^t ha^ ^t q^ nt it yet^ and persona lly I hate it. So I imagine 
domSSTwritei^ however loyally theyTry tolling^ its praises and 
to hymn the machine. But however much we detest this economid 
shift we have to recognize it as an important influence, more 
important than any local peace or war, which is going on all the 
time and transforming our outlooks. It rests on applied science, 
and as long as science is applied it will continue. Even when a 
writer seems to escape it, like T. E. Lawrence, he is conditioned 
by it. T. E. Lawrence hated the progress of industrialism, he 
hated what your city of Glasgow and my city of London stand 
for. He fled from it into the deserts of Arabia and the last of the 
romantic wars, in the search of old-time adventure, and ‘later 
on into the deserts of his own heart. I think he was right to fly, 
because I believe that a writer’s duty often exceeds any duty he 

267 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


owes to society, and that he often ought to lead a forlorn retreat. 
But of course the flight failed. Industrialism did T. E. Lawrence 
in in the long run, and it was not by the spear of an Arab but by a 
high-power motor-bike fhat he came to his death. ^ We must face 
the unpleasant truths that normal life today is a life in factories 
and offices, that even war has evolved from an adventure into a 
business, that even farming has become scientific, that insurance 
has taken the place of charity, that status has given way to 
contract. You will sec how disquieting all this is to writers, who 
love, and ought to love, beauty and charm and the passage of the 
seasons, and generous impulses, and the tradition of their craft. 
And you will appreciate how lost some of them have been feeling 
during the last quarter of a century, and how they have been 
tempted to nostalgia like Siegfried Sassoon, or to disgust like 
Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. 

But this economic movement, from the land to the factory, is 
not the only great movement which has gathered strength during 
our period. There has been a psychological movement, about 
which I am more enthusiastic. Man is beginning to understand 
himself better and to explore his own contradictions. This 
exploration is conveniently connected with the awful name of 
Freud, but it is not so much in Freud as in the air. It has brought 
a great enrichment to the art of fiction. It has given subtleties 
and depths to the portrayal of human nature. The presence in 
all of us of the subconscious, th ^^ccasional existence of the jplit 
personality, the persistence of the irrational, especially in people 
wHoTj^cfe’ themselves on their reasonableness, the importance of 
dreams and the prevalence of day-dreaming — here arc some of 
the points which novelists have seized on and which have not 
been^ ignored by historians . This psychology is not new, but it 
has ncwlyriscn to the surface. Shakespeare was subconsciously 
aware of the subconscious, so were Emily Bronte, Herman 
Melville and others. But conscious knowledge of it only comes 
at the beginning of the century, with Samuel Butler’s The Way 
of All Fleshy and only becomes general after 1918 — partly owing 
to Freud. It gathers strength now, like the economic movement, 
and, like it, is independent of war or peace. Of course, writers 
can be stupid about it, as about anything else, they can apply 
it as a formula instead of feeling it as a possibility; the stupid 
psychologist who applies his (or her) formula in season or out 

' See Christopher Caudwell, Siudm in a Dying Culture; a brilliant criticism 
of the period from a Communist standpoint. 

268 



ENGLISH PROSE BETWEEN I918 AND 1 939 

and is always saying “You think you don’t but you do” or “You 
think you do but you don’t” can be absolutely maddening. But 
the better minds of our age — what a rich harvest they have 
reaped! Proust in France to begin with; Gertrude Stein and 
her experiments in uninhibited talk — not too successful in her 
own case but influential; Dorothy Richardson’s novels, another 
pioneer in this country; the later work of D. H. Lawrence, the 
novels of Virginia Woolf, Joyce, dc la Mare, Elizabeth Bowen. 
History too has profited. This new method of examining the 
"jliuman individual has helped to reinterpret the past. Aldous 
Huxley’s Grey Eminence is one example — it gives a fresh view of 
Cardinal Richelieu and his adviser Father Joseph — a fresh view 
of their insides. Livingston Lowes’s The Road to Xanadu is 
'another example: a fresh view of the genius and make-up of 
Coleridge. And then there is the great work of a Christian 
historian, Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History ^ which regards 
histor y as a record of what men think a nd feel as well as of what 
they assert and achieve, and tries, with this ex tra material, to 
ac count for the rise and fall of civilizations . Professor Toynbee 
comes to the conclusion that they rise and fall in accord with a 
religious law, and that except the Lord build the house their 
labour is but lost that build it; or, if you prefer the language of 
Freud to that of the Old Testament, that the conscious must be 
satisfactorily based on the subconscious. 

So, though we are justified in thinking of our period as an 
interval between two wars, we must remember that it forms part 
of larger movements where wars become insignificant: part of 
an economic movement from agriculture to industrialism, and 
of a psychological movement which is reinterpreting human 
nature. Both these movements have been speeded up, and 
writers have in my judgement been worried by the economic shift 
but stimulated by the psychological. Remember too, in passing, 
another factor, and that is the shift in physics exemplified by the 
work of Einstein. Can literary men understand Einstein? Of 
course they cannot — even less than they can understand Freud. 
Bu t the idea of relati vity has got in to the air and has fa voured 
c ^mn tendencies in novd^ Absolute gCM^ and evilf as in 
Dickens, are seldom presented. A character becomes good or 
evil in re^ti on to some other character or to actuation whld i 
m^^fseTf rhanprp. You can’t measure people up, bccausi the 
yard-measure itself keeps altering its length. The best exponent 
of relativity in literature known to me is Proust, though there 

269 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


are instances in English too. Most of Proust’s people are odious, 
yet you cannot have the comfort of writing any of them off* as 
bad. Given the circumstances, even the most odious of them all, 
Madame Verdurin, can ^behave nobly. Proust and others have 
this attitude — not because they know anything about science, 
but because the idea of relativity, like the idea of the subconscious 
self, has got about and tinged their outlook. 

A word must now be said on the special character of prose. 
Prose, unlike poetry, does two things. It serves us in daily life and 
it creates works of art. For instance, I travelled from Euston to 
Glasgow on prose, I am talking prose now, and, like Monsieur 
Jourdain, I am astonished at finding myself doing so. For prose, 
besides serving our practical ends, also makes great literature. 

Now, one of the problems which a critic has to tackle is that 
these two uses of prose are not watertight, and one of them is 
as it were constantly slopping over into the other. The practical 
popular prose is always getting into the deliberate artistic prose 
which makes books. Indeed, if it didn’t, the artistic prose couldn’t 
live very long, as it would get stale and stuffy. It has to be 
replenished by contemporary speech. And in this period of ours 
there has been a great deal of this replenishment. New words and 
phrases — and, what is more important, the new habits of thought 
expressed by them — are rapidly absorbed by authors and put 
into books. That is one tendency of our period, and it may be 
called, for want of a better word, the popular tendency. The 
writer feels himself part of his people. He enters or wants to enter 
into their ways. And he wants to be understood by them, and so 
he tries to be informal and clear. I’ll give several examples of 
it. Here is a little example, taken from letter- writing. In 1918, 
if I had had a letter from a stranger it would certainly have begun 
“Dear Sir”. Today, if I have a letter from a stranger, it will 
probably begin “Dear Mr Forster”. One form of address 
doesn’t mean more than another, but the convention is a more 
friendly one. I expect it came in, like other speak-easics, from 
America. It shows which way the wind of words is blowing. 
Another sign is the speeches of public men. Public men are 
becoming less formal — some of them because of the influence of 
the radio, for they know if they broadcast too pompously listeners 
will switch off. Others are informal by instinct, like Winston 
Churchill!, whose speeches sound and read more democratic 
than those of the Prime Ministers of the last war. Novelists too — 


270 



BNOUSH PROSE BETWEEN igi8 AND 1 939 

they practise the friendly unpatronizing tone; Christopher 
Isherwood’s Mr Norris Changes Trains is an example of this. 
Isherwood — who is extremely intelligent — always writes as if the 
reader were equally intelligent. He is an example of democratic 
good manners. He trusts his public. Another novelist — Ernest 
Hemingway — introduces a new technique of conversation. An- 
other straw which shows which way this wind is blowing is the 
tendency of official notices and proclamations to become more 
intelligible. They do so reluctantly, for the bureaucrat who gives 
his meaning clearly is afraid he may be giving something else 
away too. Still, they do it. They tend to issue orders which we 
understand. And since we live under orders this is a good thing. 

I could continue this list of the popular tendencies in prose. 
We have had an example in the demand from high quarters for 
Basic English — and I expect it is a useful commercial idea, though 
I cannot see what it has to do with literature, or what it can do 
to literature, except impoverish it. I’ll conclude with an example 
of another kind, a reference to the English of the Authorized 
Version of the Bible. This, the great monument of our seven- 
teenth-century speech, has constantly influenced our talk and 
writing for the last three hundred years. Its rhythm, its atmo- 
sphere, its turns of phrase, belonged to our people and overflowed 
into our books. Bunyan, Johnson, Blake, George Eliot, all echo 
it. About ten years ago an edition of the Bible came out called 
The Bible Designed to be Read as Literature, Its publication gave 
some of us a shock and caused us to realize that the English of the 
Authorized Version had at last become remote from popular 
English. This was well put in a review by Somerset Maugham. 
The English of the Bible, he agreed, is part of our national herit- 
age, but it is so alien to our present idiom that no writer can 
study it profitably. I shall soon be quoting from a writer who 
has studied it, still Somerset Maugham is right on the whole, and 
there is now an unbridgeable gulf between ourselves and the 
Authorized Version as regards style, and the gulf widened about 
1920, when those other influences we have discussed became 
strong. Quotations from the Bible still occur, but they support 
my contention; they are usually conventional and insensitive, 
introduced because the author or speaker wants to be impressive 
without taking trouble. Listen to the following advertisement 
ofCable and Wireless in The 7Vme5of28July 1943. The advertise- 
ment is reporting a speech made by a cabinet minister. Colonel 
Oliver Stanley, at a Cable and Wireless staff lunch: 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


When the end comes, when victory is won, then history will 
begin to assess merit. We shall all of us be searching our con- 
science. ... We shall be discussing who succeeded and who 
failed. ... I have no*doubt at all, when wc come to discuss 
the part that Gable and Wireless has played, what the verdict 
of the nation will be — “Well done thou good and faithful 
servant!” 

No doubt Cable and Wireless has done and deserved well, but 
I do not feel it can be suitably congratulated in the words of 
St Matthew’s Gospel, and if the English of the Bible had been 
in Colonel Stanley’s blood instead of in his clich6-box I do not 
think he would have used such words. It is an example of 
insensitiveness to the Authorized Version and of the complete 
divorce between Biblical and popular English. (A similar 
example, this time of insensitivencss to Milton, was the slogan 
“They also serve” on a war-workers’ poster.) 

So much for this popular tendency in prose. I have suggested 
that it takes various forms, bringing freshness and informality 
and new usages and democratic good manners into literature, 
but also bringing vulgarity and flatness. Now for the other 
tendency to which I will attach the name esoteric: the desire on 
the part of writers — generally the more distinguished writers — 
to create something better than the bloodshed and dullness which 
have been creeping together over the world. Such writers are 
often censured. You may complain that Lytton Strachey, 
Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and T. E. Law- 
rence have done little to hearten us up. But you must admit they 
were the leading writers of our age. It is an age that could not 
produce a Shakespeare or even a Madame de S6vign6 or a Jane 
Austen; an age in which sensitive people could not feel comfort- 
able, and were driven to seek inner compensation : an age similar 
in some ways to that which caused St Augustine to write The City 
of God, St Augustine, though he looked outside him, worked 
within. He too was esoteric. These writers look outside them 
and find their material lying about in the world. But they 
arrange it and re-create it within, temporarily sheltered from the 
pitiless blasts and the fog. 

A further word on T. E. Lawrence. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom 
is a most enigmatic book. Lawrence made good in the world of 
action and was what most of us regard as a hero — brave, selfless, 
modest and kind by nature yet ruthless at need, loyal and the 
inspircr of loyalty, magnetic, a born leader of men, and victorious 

272 



ENGLISH PROSE BETWEEN I918 AND I939 

at Damascus in the last of the picturesque wars. Such a man, 
even if not happy, will surely be true to type. He will remain the 
man of action, the extrovert. But when we read the Seven Pillars 
we find beneath the gallant fighting and the brilliant description 
of scenery — sensitiveness, introspection, doubt, disgust at the 
material world. It is the book of a man who cannot fit in with 
twentieth-century civilization, and loves the half-savage Arabs 
because they challenge it. This comes out in the following 
quotation; note in the final sentence the hit at “vested things”: 
at the innate commercialism of the West which ruined the peace 
of Versailles. 

Their mind [the Arabs’] was strange and dark, full of depres- 
sions and exaltations, lacking in rule, but with more of ardour 
and more fertile in belief than any other in the world. They 
Averc a people of starts, for whom the abstract was the strongest 
motive, the process of infinite courage and variety, and the 
end nothing. They were as unstable as water, and like water 
would perhaps finally prevail. Since the dawn of life, in suc- 
cessive waves they had been dashing themselves against the 
coasts of flesh. Each wave was broken, but, like the sea, wore away 
ever so little of the granite on which it failed, and some day, 
ages yet, might roll unchecked over the place where the mater- 
ial world had been, and God would move upon the face of 
those waters. One such wave (and not the least) I raised and 
rolled before the breath of an idea, till it reached its crest, 
and toppled over and fell at Damascus. The wash of that wave, 
thrown back by the resistance of vested things, will provide the 
matter of the following wave, when in fullness of time the sea 
shall be raised once more. 

The Seven Pillars for all its greatness is too strange a book to 
be typical of the period, and the same applies to another curious 
masterpiece, James Joyce’s Ulysses, For a typical example I’d 
take Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria, This is important for 
several reasons. It came out at the beginning of our period, it 
is an achievement of genius, and it has revolutionized the art of 
biography. Strachey did debunk of course: he hated pom- 
posity, hypocrisy and muddlc-headedness, he mistrusted inflated 
reputations, and was clever at puncturing them, and he found in 
the Victorian age, which had taken itself very, very seriously, a 
tempting target for his barbed arrows. But he was much mofe 
than a debunker. He did what no biographer had done before: 
he managed to get inside his subject. Earlier biographers, like 

273 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


Macaulay and Carlyle, had produced fine and convincing pic- 
tures of people; Lytton Strachey makes his people move; they are 
alive, like characters in a novel: he constructs or rather recon- 
structs them from within. Sometimes he got them wrong: his 
presentation of General Gordon has been questioned, so has his 
brilliant later work on Elizabeth and Essex. But even when they 
are wrong they seem alive, and in the Queen Victoria his facts 
have not been seriously challenged; and, based on dry docu- 
ments, a whole society and its inhabitants rise from the grave, 
and walk about. That was his great contribution. He was a 
historian who worked from within, and constructed out of the 
bones of the past something more real and more satisfactory than 
the chaos surrounding him. He is typical of our period, and 
particularly of the twenties — throughout them his influence is 
enormous; today it has declined, partly because people are 
again taking themselves very, very seriously, and don’t like the 
human race to be laughed at, partly because Strachey had some 
tiresome imitators, who have brought his method into discredit. 
However, that doesn’t matter. Reputations always will go up 
and down. What matters is good work, and Queen Victoria is 
a masterpiece. It is a pageant of the historical type, but as the 
grand procession passes we — you and I, we little readers — are 
somehow inside the procession, we mingle unobserved with 
royalty and statesmen and courtiers and underlings, and hear 
their unspoken thoughts. 

Even a frivolous passage, like the one about the boy Jones, has 
its hbtorical function. Lytton Strachey was a gay person who 
loved fun and nonsense, and he knew how to make use of them 
in his work. Through the episode of the enigmatic boy Jones, 
an undersized youth who repeatedly entered Buckingham Palace 
and hid there in the year 1840, was discovered under sofas, and 
confessed “that he had ‘helped himself to soup and other 
eatables ... sat upon the throne, seen the Queen, and heard the 
Princess Royal squall’”, Strachey re-creates the domestic con- 
fusion existing there, and makes the period come alive. Then he 
passes on to more serious topics. 

What was he serious about? Not about political ideals or 
social reform. Like T. E. Lawrence, he was disillusioned, though 
in another way. He believed, however, in wit and aristocratic 
g ood m anners, and he was implacable in his pursuit ot trutn. 
He“BcIIcvSdr 4 urthermore, in fidelity between human beings. 
There, and there only, the warmth of his heart comes out. He 

274 



ENGLISH PROSE BETWEEN I918 AND I939 

is always moved by constant affection, and the Queen’s love for 
the Prince Consort, and for his memory, makes the book glow 
and preserves it from frigidity. Strachey’s belief in affection, 
like his fondness for fun, is too often forgotten. Here is the 
famous passage describing the Queen’s death, with which the 
book closes. He begins by being the dignified historian; then 
he dismisses his subject tenderly, and launches the Queen as it 
were on an ebbing tide, carrying her backwards through the 
manifold joys of life till she vanishes in the mists of her birth. 

By the end of the year the last remains of her ebbing strength 
had almost deserted her; and through the early days of the 
opening century it was clear that her dwindling forces were 
kept together only by an effort of will. On January 14, she had 
at Osborne an hour’s interview with Lord Roberts, who had 
returned victorious from South Africa a few days before. She 
inquired with acute anxiety into all the details of the war ; she 
appeared to sustain the exertion successfully; but, when the 
audience was over, there was a collapse. On the following day 
her medical attendants recognized that her state was hopeless; 
and yet, for two days more, the indomitable spirit fought on; 
for two days more she discharged the duties of a Queen of 
England. But after that there was an end of working; and 
then, and not till then, did the last optimism of those about 
her break down. The brain was failing, and life was gently 
slipping away. Her family gathered round her; for a little 
more she lingered, speechless and apparently insensible; and, 
on January 22, 1901, she died. 

When, two days previously, the news of the approaching 
end had been made public, astonished grief had swept over 
the country. It appeared as if some monstrous reversal of the 
course of nature was about to take place. The vast majority 
of her subjects had never known a time when Queen Victoria 
had not been reigning over them. She had become an indis- 
soluble part of their whole scheme of things, and that they 
were about to lose her appeared a scarcely possible thought. 
She herself, as she lay blind and silent, seemed to those who 
watched her to be divested of all thinking — to have glided 
already, unawares, into oblivion. Yet, perhaps, in the secret 
chambers of consciousness, she had her thoughts, too. Perhaps 
her fading mind called up once more the shadows of the past 
to float before it, and retraced, for the last time, the vanished 
visions of that long history — passing back and back, through 
the cloud of years, to older and ever older memories — to the 
^ring woods at Osborne, so full of primroses for Lord Beacons- 
field — to Lord Palmerston’s queer clothes and high demeanour, 

275 


K 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


and Albert’s face under the green lamp, and Albert’s first 
stag at Balmoral, and Albert in his blue and silver uniform, 
and the Baron coming in through a doorway, and Lord M. 
dreaming at Windsor with the rooks cawing in the elm-trees, 
and the Archbishop of Canterbury on his knees in the dawn, 
and the old King’s turkey-cock ejaculations, and Uncle Leo- 
pold’s soft voice at Claremont, and Lehzen with the globes, 
and her mother’s feathers sweeping down towards her, and a 
great old repeater-watch of her father’s in its tortoiseshell 
case, and a yellow rug, and some friendly flounces of sprigged 
muslin, and the trees and the grass at Kensington. 

You’ll remember what I said before about the new psychology 
being in the air, and this last long lovely drifting sentence, 
with its imaginings of the subconscious, could not have been 
created at an earlier date. 

A word on the authors whom I have mentioned. I have kept 
to those who may be said to belong to our period, who were 
formed by it, and received its peculiar stamp. Authors like 
Arnold Bennett, Galsworthy, Wells, Belloc, Chesterton, Frank 
Swinnerton, Norman Douglas, Bertrand Russell, Lowes Dickin- 
son, George Moore, Max Beerbohm, did good work after 1920, 
and some of them are still active. But they got their impressions 
and formed their attitudes in an earlier period, before the first 
of the two world wars. D. H. Lawrence presents a special diffi- 
culty. Docs he come in or not? His finest novels. The White 
Peacock and Sons and Lovers^ were published round about 1912, 
and he displays all his life a blend of vision and vituperation which 
seem to date him further back still — right back to Carlyle. On 
the other hand, he was alive to the new economics and the new 
psychology, and well aware, when he died in 1930, that the war 
to end war had ended nothing but the Victorian peace. My own 
feeling is that he docs come into our survey. 

To sum up my remarks. Our period: a long weekend between 
two wars. Economic and psychological changes already in 
existence intensify. Writers arc intimidated by the economic 
changes but stimulated by the psychological. IVose, because it 
is a medium for daily life as well as for literature, is particularly 
sensitive to what is going on, and two tendencies can be noted : 
the popular, which absorbs what is passing, and the esoteric, 
which rejects it, and tries to create through art something more 
valuable than monotony and bloodshed. The best work of the 
period has this esoteric tendency. T. E. Lawrence, though 

276 



ENOUSH PROSE BETWEEN I918 AND I939 

heroic in action, retreats into the desert to act. Lytton Strachey 
is disillusioned, except about truth and human affection. 

As for assessing the value of our period, I am disposed to place 
it high, and I do not agree with those numerous critics who 
condemn it as a failure, and scold mankind for enjoying itself 
too much in the twenties and for theorizing too much in the 
thirties. We are plunged in a terrific war, and our literary 
judgements are not at their best. All our criticism is or ought 
to be tentative. And tentatively I suggest that the long weekend 
did valuable work, and I ask you to pause before you yield to 
the prevalent tendency to censure it. 

[1944] 


877 



An Outsider on Poetry 


I have written very little poetry in my life, and only two lines of 
modern poetry. Here they are: 

I will pull down Hastings, you shall see 

Companion to India as a boat gnawed. 

I wrote them last year in a dream, and managed on waking to 
transcribe them before the censor stopped me — that censor who 
from Porlock or elsewhere always attends on our sleep and 
prevents us from communicating what we have learned in it. On 
their merits I need not pronounce. They seem to me poetry 
because they scan, and modern because they arc obscure and 
minatory. Most feebly credentialled by them, I approach the 
thirty-six poets of Poetry of the Present^ Mr Geoffrey Grigson’s 
anthology of the thirties and forties. 

One has need of some sort of credential. The outsider, the 
proscr, even if he is modest and sensitive, goes wrong in the 
poetry world very quickly. He can hear music, he can recognize 
ideas, but the marriage between music and ideas, out of which the 
poem is born, often eludes him, with the result that his judge- 
ment is unreliable, he praises where he ought to blame, and vice 
versa. He is constantly entering a world for which he is not 
prepared. He is prepared for the poetry of the past. Critics 
have laid down the lines within which he may wander. But the 
present demands an unaided opinion, which he hesitates to give. 
The safer course is not to read the stuff, and to hold the com- 
fortable hope that what is worthy in it will survive. Meanwhile 
the poets arc far from comfortable, for if they are not read they 
will not get published. Their fate is symbolic: the present 
indifference to contemporary poetry — contrasting so lamentably 
with the curiosity of the twenties and thirties — ^is part of the general 
menace to literature. 

I read it from time to time myself. I cannot pretend to be as 
curious about it as I am about contemporary music, but now 
and then, perhaps through some personal experience, perhaps 

278 



AN OUTSIDER ON POETRY 

through my profound belief that poets know best, I venture, I 
venture into the present’s whirlpool, and find something hitting 
my hand. It is uncommonly like a stone, and since it may not 
be a precious stone practical people ignore it. There, however, 
the stone is. Through some slight affinity in myself, I hold it, 
I remove it from the waters with respect, I listen and look. 

There’s been discomfort here. That is my first impression. 
The person who has created this little object does not find the 
universe a soft or sunny spot. Through his imagination, he has 
heard danger coming, he has seen war-clouds, he has felt the 
social tremble underfoot, and maybe he has detected disunion in 
his own heart. He is minatory like my own doggerel. How 
should he not be ? It began with Auden, and the various people 
who have complained of Auden have never managed to avoid 
his note, 

never will be perfect like the fountains; 

We live in freedom by necessity, 

A mountain people dwelling among mountains. 

The threat may be lifted to the heroic, it may be subdued into 
an anxiety, it may be masked by compassion or sharpened by 
satire, but in some form or other it is the heritage of most of the 
contributors to this volume. 

The blackbirds sing and I see no end of agony. 

The pink and the white blossom 

Spangles the chestnuts, the theatres pour into the 
streets 

The unimaginative. And the earth renews 
In Europe its solar gaiety, and the earth moves on 
To no destination. 

(Kenneth Allott) 

What’s to become of the world if Money should suddenly die? 

Should suddenly take a toss and go down crack on his head ? 

If the dance suddenly finished, if they stopped the runaway bus, 
if the trees stopped racing away? 

If our hopes come true and he dies, what’s to become of us ? 

(Bernard Spencer) 

When I was bom on Amman hill 
A dark bird crossed the sun. 

Sharp on the floor the shadow fell; 

I was the youngest son. 


279 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


And when I went to the County School 
I worked in a shaft of light. 

In the wood of the desk I cut my name : 

Dai for Dynamite. 

The tall black hills my brothers stood ; 

Their lessons all were done. 

From the door of the school when I ran out 
They frowned to watch me run. 

(Vernon Watkins) 

The seven-branched cactus 
Will never sweat wine : 

My own bleeding feet 
Shall furnish the sign. 

The rock says “Endure”. 

The wind says “Pursue”. 

The sun says “ I will suck your bones 
And afterwards bury you.” 

(Sidney Keyes) 

That seems the generalization to which the outsider can cling 
as the little objects dash against his hand: minatory: the anxiety 
of those who, through their temperament, apprehend more than 
the rest of us, and have special powers for communicating their 
dreams. It is only a generalization, and the poem I most admired 
stands right beyond it on the calm lake of oriental philosophy: 

But now beyond question, the swans sail on together, 
Wing answering wing, as parting of a breath 
Is close to its indrawing. 

And the god in one sees himself in the other, 

For his self-knowledge is the sailing of two swans. 

But the swans do not know themselves possessed. 

They go on their own way in their distant world. 

(E. J. Scovell) 

And there are other poems which express no view, but rest 
content with the immediate sensation, the present image: 

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath. 

The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path, 

As I struggle with double-end evening tie. 

For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I. 

(John Betjeman) 

280 



AN OUTSIDER ON POETRY 

Wild Wilbur paces by the caves 
His limbs are long his smile is wide 
his hands are dangling side to side 
his eyes are fixed upon the waves. 

The birds sing in his healthy ears 
the waves spill round his anklesocks 
sometimes he spits upon the rocks 
sometimes he picks his nose with tears. 

(James Kirkup) 

That contemporary poetry should often be obscure and odd 
never surprises me ; the poet, however traditional his equipment, 
is always an innovator and likely to puzzle his ciders. He has 
seen something old in a new way, and he may even have seen 
something new. When reading him it is desirable to be good- 
tempered; so many readers get cross out of a sense of duty; 
they arc proud of being irritated by modern verse, and of detect- 
ing any affectations in it. They enjoy sneering at it, and one 
small thing that we can do for it and for literature generally is 
to call their bluff and ask them to explain why they are sneering. 

[1949] 


381 



Mohammed Iqbal 


I met Iqbal once, thirty years ago, and only in passing. He is 
dead now and lies in honour outside the great mosque in Lahore, 
his own city. I visited his grave last winter. He is constantly 
mentioned in India — quite as often as Tagore, with whom he is 
contrasted. Over here he is little known; so I shall venture to 
allude to him, although I can only read him in translation. 

Iqbal was an orthodox Moslem, though not a conventional 
one. He was highly educated, and partly in Europe; he was 
not cosmopolitan, and the basis of his culture remained oriental. 
By profession he was a lawyer. He wrote both prose and poetry. 
The poems are mostly in Urdu, some are in Persian, and a few 
in Punjabi. As for his politics, he was once in sympathy with 
a united India, but in later life he changed, and adherents of 
Pakistan now claim him as a prophet. Whatever his opinions, 
he was no fanatic, and he refers to Hindus and to Christians with 
courtesy and respect. 

All the same he was a fighter. He believed in the Self — the 
Self as a fighting unit — and his philosophy is not an enquiry into 
truth but a recommendation as to how the fight should be carried 
on. Fight we must, for man is the vice-regent of God upon 
earth. We must fortify our personalities. We must be hard. 
We must always be in a state of tension and try to be supermen. 
In one poem, Satan complains to God that men are not worth 
tempting because they are weak and have never discovered their 
Selves : 


O master of all . . . 

Association with mankind has debased me. . . . 

Take back from me this doll of water and clay.^ 

So might the button-moulder in Ibsen’s play complain of Per 
Gynt. Iqbal reminds us of Nietzsche too. Renunciation of the 
Self is a form of cowardice, and therefore a crime. We cannot 

J The translations arc from an interesting monograph by Mr S. A. Vahid, 

B ' '*Bhed in Lahore [as revised by the author for the eoition published in 
on by John Murray, 1959— Ed.]. 

282 



MOHAMMED IQBAL 

bear one another’s burdens, and we must not expect to be 
redeemed. 

Now he combines this doctrine of hardness and of the Self 
with a capacity for mysticism. The combination makes him 
remarkable as a poet. Even in a translation, one can see the 
sudden opening-up of vistas between the precepts. It is not the 
mysticism that seeks union with God. On this point the poet 
is emphatic. We shall see God perhaps. We shall never be 
God. For God, like ourselves, has a Self, and he created us not 
out of himself but out of nothing. Iqbal dislikes the pantheism 
which he saw all around him in India — for instance, in Tagore — 
and he castigates those Moslem teachers who have infected Islam 
with it. It is weakening and wrong to seek unity with the 
divine. Vision — perhaps. Union — no. 

Such — if an outsider may summarize — is his philosophy. It is 
not a philosophy I like, but that is another matter. There is 
anyhow nothing vague about it, nothing muzzy. It gives us a 
shock and helps us to see where we are. It is non-Christian. It 
is, in a sense, anti-humanitarian. It inspires him to write poems. 
They follow the orthodox forms, but they contain matter which 
is excitingly modern. Take, for instance, this poem in which 
Man defiantly addresses God on the ground that Man has proved 
the better artist of the two: 

Thou didst create night and I made the lamp, 

Thou didst create clay and I made the cup. 

Thou didst create the deserts, mountains and forests, 

I produced the orchards, gardens and groves; 

It is I who turn stone into a mirror, 

And it is I who turn poison into an antidote! 

Or consider this strange poem on the subject of Lenin. Lenin 
has died, and finds himself in the presence of the Deity whom he 
had supposed to be an invention of the priests. He is not intimi- 
dated, but speaks his mind. God exists, to be sure. But whose 
God is he? The starving peasant’s? The God of the East, who 
worships the white man? Or of the West, who worships the 
Almighty Dollar? 

Thou art All Powerful and Just, but in Thy world 
The lot of the hapless labourer is very hard! 

When will this boat of Capitalism be wrecked? 

Thy world is waiting for the Day of Reckoning! 

The angels are moved by the dead Bolshevik’s blimtness, and 

283 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


they sing to their Lord like the angels at the opening of Goethe’s 
Faust y but not in the same strain: 

Intellect is still unbridled, Love is not localized; 

0 Painter Divine, Thy painting is still lacking in something. 

Lying in ambush for mankind arc the libertine, the theo- 
logian, the leader and the monk. 

In Thy Universe the old order still continueth ! 

The Almighty is moved in his turn. He bows to the criticism 
of Lenin, and he orders the angels to burn every cornstalk in the 
field which does not nourish the cultivator, to give the sparrow 
strength to fight the falcon, and to smash up the glasshouse of 
modern civilization. Iqbal never identifies hardness with oppres- 
sion, or the Self with selfishness. The superman he seeks may 
come from any class of society. 

Here is an uncontrovcrsial lyric, “Loneliness”. The poet is 
speaking, and his words gain pathos when we remember his creed 
of hardness: 

To the seashore I went and said to a restless wave, 

“Thou art always in quest of something. What ails thee? 

There are a thousand bright pearls in thy bosom. 

But hast thou a heart like mine in thy breast?” 

It merely trembled, sped away from the shore, and said 
nothing ! 

1 betook myself to the presence of God, passing beyond the 

sun and the moon, and said: 

“In Thy world not a single particle knows me. 

The world h£is no heart and this earthly being of mine is 
all heart. 

The garden is charming, but is not worthy of my song.” 

A smile came to His lips but He said nothing! 

Mohammed Iqbal is a genius and a commanding one, and, 
though I often disagree with him and usually agree with Tagore, 
it is Iqbal I would rather read. I know where I am with him. 
He is one of the two great cultural figures of modern India, and 
our ignorance about him is extraordinary. 

[1946] 


284 



Syed Ross Masood 

Contributed to the 

Memorial Number of an Urdu journal 


Masood had many English friends, but I may claim to be the 
oldest and most intimate of them. I have known him since 1907, 
and we kept in touch the whole time. I have been with him in 
England and in Switzerland and have twice visited him in India^ 
and have also been his guest in France and in Germany. I cannot 
speak of our affection here — it is not the time or the place — but I 
am thankful to pay this tribute to it and to his memory. There 
never was anyone like him and there never will be anyone like 
him. He cannot bejudged as ordinary men are judged. My own 
debt to him is incalculable. He woke me up out of my suburban 
and academic life, showed me new horizons and a new civiliza- 
tion, and helped me towards the understanding of a continent. 
Until I met him, India was a vague jumble of rajahs, sahibs, 
babus and elephants, and I was not interested in such a jumble; 
who could be ? He made everything real and exciting as soon as 
he began to talk, and seventeen years later when I wrote A Passage 
to India I dedicated it to him out of gratitude as well as out of love, 
for it would never have been written without him. 

Masood was essentially an artist. Those who knew him as an 
official may be surprised at this statement, but though his career 
was of a practical character his temperament was aesthetic. He 
lived by his emotions and instincts, and his standards were those 
of good taste. “Don’t be so danrmed inartistic,” he would say if 
he wanted to criticize my conduct. For logic, and for ethical 
consistency, he had very little use. He had an artist’s recklessness 
over money; he was fantastically generous, incredibly hospitable, 
and always happiest when he was giving something away. He 
was a patron of the arts and a connoisseur; he loved good books, 
coins and engravings: when he went to Japan, he made a collec- 
tion of coloured prints there, and gave them to me afterwards. His 
aesthetic judgements were not always sound, but they were always 
vehement and came from the very depths of his being. As a 

^ First at his home in Aligarh, and then in Hyderabad, Deccan, where he 
was Director of Education. 


285 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


young man he had an unbounded admiration for the poetry of 
Alfred de Musset, and in later life when a play of Tolstoy’s was 
put on in London and took his fancy he went to see it eight times. 
A professional critic may smile at his enthusiasms, but men of wider 
outlook will understand them, and recognize their sincerity and 
their stimulating effect on others. One might disagree with him 
but he never left one cold. With his temperament, he naturally 
felt most at home in the country that has honoured art most, and 
that country is neither India nor England but France. He loved 
Paris, and he spoke French well. 

What did he think of the English ? He handled them splendidly. 
If they patronized him, he let them have it back, very politely, 
and I have often been amused at the way in which Englishmen 
and Englishwomen who had begun by giving themselves airs 
were obliged to drop them, and to yield to his masterful person- 
ality and his charm. There is a story that he was once involved 
in a “railway-carriage” incident. He was stretched full-length 
in an empty compartment when a British officer bounced in and 
said, “Come on! Get out of this.” Masood looked up quietly 
and said, “D’you want your head knocked off?”, whereupon the 
officer exclaimed, “I say, I’m awfully sorry, I didn’t know you 
were that sort of person,” and they became excellent friends. 
Whether this story be true or not, it is certainly true that on an- 
other occasion when returning on a P. & O. he contracted to 
shave an Australian miner all the way from Bombay to Marseilles 
for the sum of one guinea, and that he kept the contract. That 
was how he handled the Anglo-Saxons. He overwhelmed them 
by his energy and his unconventionality of address. 

That was how he handled them, but what did he think of them ? 
Leaving aside his English friends, whom he placed in a class apart, 
what did he feel about the Ruling Race as a whole ? Perhaps his 
private thoughts are best expressed in a remark which has always 
amused me: “As for your damned countrymen, I pity the poor 
fellows from the bottom of my heart, and give them all the help I 
can.” He was irritated by the English, he was sometimes bitter 
about them, but he realized that they were awkwardly placed in 
India, and he extended, half humorously, his sympathy towards 
them in their plight. He did not really dislike them, and I attri- 
bute his tolerance to his early upbringing: when he was a little 
boy at Aligarh, he lived with Sir Theodore and Lady Morison, 
and his lifelong friendship with both of them coloured his outlook 
and made him less exacting. 


286 



SYED ROSS MASOOD 


Masood’s real work, of course, lay with his own community 
in his own country, and those who shared it will write about him 
best. But I knew him very well, from a particular angle, and I 
have tried to keep to that angle in this inadequate contribution 
to his memory. When his official career is described, it must not 
be forgotten that he was essentially an artist, and I have tried to 
emphasize this. And, when his services to Islam, to India and to 
the Urdu language are commemorated, it must not be forgotten 
that he was loved and indeed adored by men and women who 
differed from him in creed, race and speech, but were able never- 
theless to recognize his genius and the greatness of his heart. 

[1937] 



A Duke Remembers 


Men, Women and Things, the Duke of Portland’s reminiscences, is 
more of a bag than a book. The reader who opens it will assist 
at a tremendously aristocratic shoot, where many birds fall dead 
but none are wantonly wounded. In the foreground move the 
guns, always titled and often royal, then come the highly paid 
keepers, and further off, also doing their duty and drawing their 
screw, slink the beaters. It is a very good-tempered book. Great 
names hurtle through the air, to fall at our feet with scarcely a 
feather disarranged. It is also a self-assured book, hence its 
strength. If the writer stopped to think what he was aiming at, 
he would be lost, the pen would drop from his hand. But he never 
stops, he just writes, just as he just shoots, dresses or rides. He has 
worn the best clothes all his life, killed the best animals, and he 
had the best friends, and with the same flair he uses the best 
words. Hit or miss ! There’s no getting away from that truth, is 
there? And it’s a hit all the time with the Duke of Portland. 
Duke, Duke, you’re cute, as those lively if backward people the 
Americans would say. Oh Duke, give us more! And this is in- 
deed the third volume of his reminiscences. They make the plea- 
santest reading, that is to say, he is so loyal to his peers, so 
considerate to his dependants, and so resourceful and jolly when 
confronted with the plcbs, that we do not notice the triviality of 
their subject-matter or their narrowness of outlook. 

In her younger days, “Skitdes” often hunted with the Quorn 
Hounds, riding horses lent her by an admirer of Hebrew 
origin, who hunted from Melton. One day he and his horse 
fell into a brook. “Skittles” jumped over them both, turned 
round, kissed her hand and said, “Moses in the bulrushes, I 
sec!” This is only one of the many good stories I have heard 
about “Skittles”. 

There is something faintly wrong in this good story about 
Skittles, but we dash past it, the racy anecdote carries us. We 
join too in the baiting of various provincial mayors. Mayors are 
absurd, they show the wrong sort of awe at the approach of 

288 



A DUKE REMEMBERS 


royalty, with the result that a drop of sweat falls from the nose 
of one of them onto Queen Alexandra’s glove. “Fortunately 
the Lady in Waiting had a handkerchief at hand”, so no real 
harm was done. (The mentality of the Duke here is precisely that 
of the Mayor, but he doesn’t notice that, nor do we.) We relish, 
too, the wit of Sir Frederick Milner. Interrupted at a political 
meeting by a radical grocer. Sir Frederick dubbed him “Treacle 
Tommy”. The grocer was furious and retorted with “Frothy 
Fred”, but this was not nearly as clever, and when the election 
results came out it was the “froth” that rose to the top, while the 
“treacle” sank to the bottom, its natural home. 

Yes, the general effect of the book is pleasant. The writer is a 
man of energy, good humour and natural sense, who has in- 
herited and enhanced a great name, held a high post in the royal 
household, and found the world agreeable. He does not like the 
present day. Women are plainer, driving deteriorates, of the 
thirteen great London houses of his youth only four remain as 
private residences, and as for the country, the estates around 
Welbeck are let, or empty, and their staffs of servants are seeking 
employment elsewhere. Such are the results of Treacle Tommy 
and time. But the Duke is too good a sportsman to grumble: 
“For all this, I believe human nature is, and will always be, the 
same; it may therefore be only the outward and visible form of 
things which has so much altered. I hope that the new world, 
though I do not always agree with its ways, holds just as many 
possibilities of happiness, good-fellowship and enjoyment of life 
as that which I knew, and shall try to some extent to describe.” 

In a sentence such as this the landed aristocrat seems the only 
democrat, and our hearts go out to him. But he is far away 
from us really. His touches of arrogance and patronage, his 
childish interest in uniforms, and the clouds of retainers behind 
which he can retire, combine to make him a very queer bird. 
No doubt the arrogance is unconscious, but the aristocrat docs 
practise, more than most men, the art of switching off when a 
person or a situation incommodes him. Graciousness and bleak- 
ness alternate. Hence the mixed impression he makes upon the 
general public, and the reprisals he occasionally provokes. A 
regrettable incident once happened at Nottingham. Lord 
Roberts, attended by the Duke himself, was decorating veterans 
there, and one of the men, just as the ribbon was going to be 
pinned on him, opened his coat, and out popped the head of a 
kitten. A kitten was the last thing which the Commander-in- 

aSg 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


Chief had expected, and he so hated cats that he stepped back 
and trod on the Duke’s toe. All must deplore the veteran’s con- 
duct, yet the public is bound to pop out a kitten occasionally, 
or it would burst. It has, every now and then, to remind the 
governing classes that they must not take themselves and their 
awards too seriously, and if it is ever afraid to do this England 
will cease to be England. 


[1937] 



Mrs Miniver^ 


A working-class man I know — ^he grew up in a Gloucestershire 
village — has told me of the reactions of the villagers there to the 
parson thirty years back. The parson was not disliked, he was a 
kindly, friendly fellow, who had the right word for every occasion. 
But when the right word was spoken and he passed out of earshot, 
swinging his stick and looking right and left at the sky, the vil- 
lagers came into their own for a moment, and used foul language 
about him. They had to, to clear their chests and to get rid of 
their feeling of incompetence. To preserve their manhood and 
their self-respect, they had to splutter a little smut. 

Mrs Miniver, the gifted heroine of Miss Jan Struther’s sketches, 
invites a similar reaction. She, too, has the right word for every 
occasion. What answer can the villagers make to a lady who 
is so amusing, clever, observant, broad-minded, shrewd, demure, 
bohemian, happily-married, triply-childrened, public-spirited 
and at all times such a lady? No answer, no answer at all. They 
listen to her saying the right things, and are dumb. They watch her 
doing the right things in the right way, and are paralysed. Even 
if they disgrace themselves by spluttering smut in her hearing, 
she is not put out, for the class to which she and the parson belong 
has grown an extra thickness of skin in the last thirty years. 
“Touch6el” she would exclaim, with her little ringing laugh, 
and pass on untouched. She is too wonderful with the villagers, 
she has them completely taped. Taxi-men, too. One day she over- 
hears two ridiculous fat bottle-nosed taxi-men talking about the 
subconscious self. She takes the absurdity back to her husband, 
whose sense of humour coincides with her own, and if the taxi- 
men had turned the tables and ridiculed her she would have taken 
that back, too. She has learned the defensive value of honesty, 
which was unknown to her immediate forebears, and conse- 
quently nothing short of physical violence can ever do her in. 
Even when the Highlanders take off their trousers at the Games 
she is not disconcerted; it is the governess who looks the other 
^ The book, not the film. 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


way. And she writes so well, knowing just where to place each 
word. And she has delighted thousands upon thousands of readers 
of The Times and been the subject of two Times leaders and 
of innumerable letters to The Times calling her charming, and she 
has been a clue in Times crossword puzzles. Why do a few of us 
stand glum by the roadside as the gallant little pageant passes? 
Is it not just our own silly jealousy that prevents us from follow- 
ing in her train ? 

Perhaps. But there is another possibility, which is more in- 
teresting to examine. It concerns the odd social fabric of these 
islands. Mrs Miniver is beyond doubt a lady. But she is equally 
certainly not an aristocrat. Although her name is vaguely 
heraldic and her son at Eton and her brother-in-law the McQucm 
of Quern, she comes out of the top drawer but one. She thinks 
she is in the top drawer of all, and that her good behaviour is the 
best kind of behaviour. It may be morally the best. But socially — 
no, and her quiet assurance that she is socially “it** becomes 
rather trying. There is something the little lady has not got — some 
grace or grandeur, some fierce eccentricity, some sense of ancient 
lineage or broad acres lost through dissipation, something which 
makes patronage acceptable, even if it hurries the patron to the 
guillotine. She may be able to give chapter and verse for a 
distinguished ancestry, but distinction does not course in her 
blood. She has her own style, but she has not Style. Look at her 
treatment of poverty. She and her husband are poorish and not 
ashamed of it, which is very nice of them, but a fatal error for 
those who wish to seem always in the right. Her shabby old car, 
her unsnobbishness in living only in Kent, are deftly exploited, 
and serve to snub another lady who has smarter cars and lives in 
Gloucestershire. But dingincss is a dangerous weapon. It may 
break in the hand if used carelessly. She assumes that it will work 
in the social sphere as effectively as it docs in the humorous and 
the moral, and that she can create the atmosphere of Madame de 
S6vign6 by behaving like Mrs Carlyle. 

That — so far as one can put one’s finger upon an elusive spot 
— ^is the trouble with Mrs Miniver and with the class to which she 
and most of us belong, the class which strangled the aristocracy 
in the nineteenth century, and has been haunted ever since by 
the ghost of its victim. It is a class of tradesmen and professional 
men and little government officials, and it has come into power 
consequent on the Industrial Revolution and Reform Bills and 
the Death Duties. But it has never been able to build itself an 

292 



"MRS MINIVER” 


appropriate home, and when it asserts that an Englishman’s home 
is his castle it reveals the precise nature of its failure. We who 
belong to it still copy the past. The castles and the great man- 
sions are gone, we have to live in semi-detached villas instead, 
they are all we can afford, but let us at all events retain a Trades- 
men’s Entrance. The Servants’ Hall has gone; let the area- 
basement take its place. The servants themselves are going; Mrs 
Miniver had four, to be sure, but many a suburban mistress batters 
the registry offices in vain. The servants are unobtainable, yet we 
still say, “How like a servant!” when we want to feel superior and 
safe. Our minds still hanker after the feudal stronghold which w^ 
condemned as uninhabitable. ^ 

This is not a great tragedy, according to present standards of 
sadness. Something much worse than middle-class complacency 
and facetiousness has got loose in the world today. But it is worth 
noting, and the working classes sometimes note it for themselves, 
and let out a hoot. They have something which the middle classes 
have not and the aristocracy once had: spontaneity, natural 
gaiety, recklessness. They arc losing it, for their betters have in- 
sisted upon their being insured, and insurance always has a 
soddening effect upon the spirits. But they retain enough of it to 
miss the point of the jokes in Punchy and to make rude noises when 
moral worth dons a plumed hat and masquerades as social dis- 
tinction. There is a natural sympathy between the top drawer 
and the bottom. The “castle” and the “hovel” have understood 
one another, and have even approximated in type. Those who 
had everything have felt easy in the presence of those who had 
nothing; and vice versa. A society constituted thus was not just 
and could not be permanent, but in the intervals of persecution 
and rebellion there was a harmony in the fabric of England which 
has been lost. The top drawer has now gone. The bottom drawer 
is being reorganized and dusted out. The top drawer but one 
makes its little jokes and imposes its whimsies and ideals as if 
nothing else was obtainable. And certainly there are worse 
things. But there are other things. 

People still go on studying the English National Character. 
And Mrs Miniver furnishes useful material. But the world moves 
so fast under the relentless lash of science that national charac- 
teristics are not likely to be of much importance in the future. 
They have a factitious value, especially in wartime, because they 
arc exploited by rival governmental gangs, but the forces that 
form human nature have moved elsewhere. Just as Gloucester- 


293 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


shire and Kent have become alike, so will England, Germany, 
Russia and Japan become alike. Internationalism, unavowed or 
avowed, is a cert. Bloodstained or peaceful, it is coming. As it 
looms on the eastern horizon, the little differences of the past lose 
their colour, and the carefully explored English temperament 
seems in particular scarcely worth the bother that has been taken 
over interpreting it. 

[1939] 


«94 



In My Library 


You are soon in my library and soon out of it, for most of the 
books are contained in a single room. I keep some more of them 
in a bedroom and in a little sitting-room and in a bathroom cup- 
board, but most of them are in what we will politely term the 
library. This is a commodious apartment — twenty-four feet by 
eighteen — and a very pleasant one. The ceiling is high, the paint 
white, the wallpaper ribboned-white, and the sun, when it shines, 
does so through lofty windows of early Victorian Gothic. Even 
when it does not shine, the apartment remains warm and bright, 
for it faces south. Round the walls are a dozen wooden bookcases 
of various heights and shapes, a couple of them well designed, the 
others cheap. In the middle of the room stands a curious object: 
a bookcase which once belonged to my grandfather. It has in its 
front a little projecting shelf supported on two turned pillars of 
wood, and it has a highly polished back. Some say it is a con- 
verted bedstead. It stood in a similar position in the middle of his 
study over a hundred years ago — he was a country clergyman. 
Bedstead or not, it is agreeable and original, and I have tried to 
fill it with volumes of gravity, appropriate to its past. Here are the 
theological works of Isaac Barrow, thirteen volumes, full morocco, 
stamped with college arms. Here are the works of John Milton, 
five volumes, similarly garbed. Here is Evelyn’s Diary in full calf, 
and Arnold’s Thucydides, and Tacitus and Homer. Here are my 
grandfather’s own works, bearing titles such as One Primeval 
Language^ The Apocalypse Its Own Interpreter and Mohammedanism 
Unveiled, Have you read my grandfather’s works ? No ? Have I 
read them? No. 

My grandfather, then, is one of the influences that I can trace 
in my little collection. I never knew him in the flesh. He must 
have been rather alarming. His character was dogmatic and 
severe, and he would not approve of some of the company wluch 
I oblige him to keep today. For close by, in a bookcase between 
the two windows, lurk works of another sort — ^Anatole France, 
Marcel Proust, Heredia, Andr6 Gide — the type of Frenchman 





THE ARTS IN ACTION 


whose forerunners he denounced in a sermon preached to his 
village in 1871 on the occasion of the fall of Paris. It is ironical 
that the book belonging^ to him which I most cherish should be a 
French book. This is a great encyclopaedia in fifty-two volumes — 
the Biographie Universelle of 1825. Each volume bears his dignified 
bookplate with our family arms and also the bookplate of Sir 
James Mackintosh, its previous owner. It is in bad condition — 
all the backs off — but it is a useful work of reference of the lei- 
surely type, and makes excellent reading. There is nothing slick 
about it. It dates from the days before the world broke up, and 
it is a good thing occasionally to go back to these days. They 
steady us. 

The next influence I have to note is that of his daughter, my 
aunt. I inherited her possessions, and had to sell or give away 
most of her books before I could fit into my present quarters. But 
I kept what I liked best, and enough to remind me of her culti- 
vated and attractive personality. She was a maiden lady of strong 
character, and a great reader, particularly of good prose. 
Trollope, Jane Austen, Charlotte Yonge, Malory, sound bio- 
graphies of sound Victorians — these have come down from her. 
Books on birds also — Bewick and Morris. The birds remind me of 
her bookplate. She had a charming personal one of a foliated 
arabesque round a shield, and from the arabesque peep out birds, 
dogs and a squirrel — some of the living creatures who surrounded 
her country home where she led a quiet, happy and extremely use- 
ful life. She was interested in crafts — she started classes for leather- 
work in the village. She was herself a designer and worker, she 
designed and executed book-covers which were made up at the 
binder’s, and my shelves (to which we now return) are enriched 
by several examples of her skill. Here are the Letters of Charles 
Darwin (whom she had known), and Ruskin’s Praeteritay and 
Ruskin’s Giotto — a fine example in pigskin, introducing the legend- 
ary O of Giotto and her own initials. The most ambitious of all 
her bindings — The Ruhdiydt of Omar Khayydm — I gave away after 
her death to an oriental friend. I still miss that lovely book and 
wish I possessed it. I still sec the charming design with which she 
decorated its cover — polo-players adapted from an ancient Per- 
sian miniature — a design for which the contemporary dust-jacket 
is a poor substitute. 

However, I am contemporary myself and I must get on to 
myself and not linger amongst ancestral influences any longer. 
What did I bring to my library ? Not much deliberately. I have 



IN MY LIBRARY 


never been a collector, and as for the first-edition craze, I place it 
next door to stamp-collecting — I can say no less. It is non-adult 
and exposes the book-lover to all sorts of nonsense at the hands of 
the book-dealer. One should never tempt book-dealers. I am 
myself a lover of the interiors of books, of the words in them — an 
uncut book is about as inspiriting as a corked-up bottle of wine — 
and much as I enjoy good print and good binding and old volumes 
they remain subsidiary to the words: words, the wine of life. 
This view of mine is, I am convinced, the correct one. But even 
correctness has had its disadvantages, and I am bound to admit that 
my library, so far as I have created it, is rather a muddle. Here’s 
one sort of book, there’s another, and there is not enough of any 
sort of book to strike a dominant note. Books about India and by 
Indians, modern poetry, ancient history, American novels, travel 
books, books on the state of the world, and on the world-state, 
books on individual liberty, art-albums, Dante and books about 
him — they tend to swamp each other, not to mention the usual 
pond of pamphlets which has to be drained off periodically. The 
absence of the collector’s instinct in me, the absence of deliberate 
choice, have combined with a commendable variety of interests 
to evolve a library which will not make any definite impression 
upon visitors. 

I have not a bookplate — too diffident or too much bother. I 
cannot arrange books well either; shall it be by subjects or by 
heights? Shall a tall old Froissart stand beside The Times AtlaSy 
or beside a tiny Philippe de Commines ? I do not bang or blow 
them as much as I should, or oil their leather backs, or align those 
backs properly. They are unregimented. Only at night, when 
the curtains are drawn and the fire flickers, and the lights arc 
turned off, do they come into their own, and attain a collective 
dignity. It is very pleasant to sit with them in the firelight for a 
couple of minutes, not reading, not even thinking, but aware that 
they, with their accumulated wisdom and charm, arc waiting 
to be used, and that my library, in its tiny imperfect way, is a 
successor to the great private libraries of the past. “Do you ever 
lend books?” someone may say in a public-spirited tone of voice 
at this point. Yes, I do, and they arc not returned, and still I lend 
books. Do I ever borrow books ? I do, and I can see some of them 
unreturned around me. I favour reciprocal dishonesty. But^thc 
ownership of the things docs give me peculiar pleasure, which in- 
creases as I get older. It is of the same kind, though not so strong, 
as the desire to possess land. And, like all possessiveness, it does 


297 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


not go down to the roots of our humanity. Those roots arc 
spiritual. The deepest desire in us is the desire to understand, and 
that is what I meant just now when I said that the really important 
thing in books is the words in them — words, the wine of life — not 
their binding or their print, not their edition value or their biblio- 
maniac value, or their uncuttability. 

One’s favourite book is as elusive as one’s favourite pudding, 
but there certainly are three writers whom I would like to have 
in every room, so that I can stretch out my hand for them at 
any moment. They are Shakespeare, Gibbon and Jane Austen. 
There are two Shakespeares in this library of mine and also two 
outside it, one Gibbon and one outside it, one Jane Austen and two 
outside it. So I am happily furnished. And, of course, I have 
some Tolstoy, but one scarcely wants Tolstoy in every room. 
Shakespeare, Gibbon and Jane Austen are my choice, and in a 
library one thinks of Gibbon most. Gibbon loved books but was 
not dominated by them. He knew how to use them. His bust 
might well stand on my grandfather’s bookcase, to my grand- 
father’s indignation. 

[1949] 


298 



The London Library 


In May 1841 the London Library was launched on the swelling 
tides of Victorian prosperity. It celebrates its centenary among 
the rocks. It is unharmed at the moment of writing — not a 
volume out of action — but the area in which it stands is cloven 
by the impacts of the imbecile storm. All around it are the 
signs of the progress of science and the retrogression of man. 
Buildings are in heaps, the earth is in holes. Safe still among 
the reefs of rubbish, it seems to be something more than a 
collection of books. It is a symbol of civilization. It is a reminder 
of sanity and a promise of sanity to come. Perhaps the Nazis 
will hit it, and it is an obvious target, for it represents the toler- 
ance and the disinterested erudition which they so detest. But 
they have missed it so far.^ 

Why should a private subscription library, which appeals to 
only a small section of the community, arouse exalted thoughts ? 

The answer to this question is to be found in the Library’s 
history, and in its present policy. Speakers at its annual meetings 
are fond of saying that it is unique, which is more or less true, 
and that it is typically English, which greatly understates its 
claims. It is not typically English. It is typically civilized. It 
pays a homage to seriousness and to good sense which is rare in 
these islands and anywhere. It has cherished the things of the 
mind, it has insisted on including all points of view, and yet it 
has been selective. Ephemeral books, popular successes, most 
novels, many travelogues and biographies have been excluded 
from its shelves. And technical treatises, such as have helped 
to make the mess outside, have not been encouraged either. 
Of course it has had its lapses; one can find trash in it, and 
specialization-lumber also. But its policy has always been to 
send those who want trash to the chain-libraries, and those who 
want lumber to their appropriate lumber-room. It caters neither 
for the goose nor for the rat, but for creatures who are trying 
to be human. The desire to know more, the desire to feel more, 
^ They hit it in 1944. 


299 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


and, accompanying these but not strangling them, the desire to 
help others: here, briefly, is the human aim, and the Library 
exists to further it. 

So much for its seriousness. Its good sense is equally remark- 
able. For it would be possible to have these admirable ideals, 
but to render them unacceptable through red tape. That is the 
great snag in institutionalism. There may be fine intention and 
noble provision, but they often get spoiled by the belief that the 
public cannot be trusted, that it is careless, dishonest, grubby, 
clumsy, that it must on no account be “allowed access” to the 
shelves, and is best served from behind a wire netting. The 
London Library, though an institution, will have nothing to do 
with this fallacy. It takes the risks. Its members can go all over 
its book-stores. There is a price to be paid ; books do get stolen, 
or taken out without being entered, or taken out in unauthorized 
quantities, or kept out too long, or dog’s-eared, or annotated 
in the margin by cultivated scribes who should know better; 
but it is worth it, it is worth treating the creatures as if they were 
grown-up, the gain to the humanities outweighs the financial 
loss. Moreover, it is the tradition of the library to help the 
student rather than to snub, and this promotes a decent reaction 
at once. And “help” is indeed too feeble a word; the officials 
there possess not only goodwill, but wide and accurate know- 
ledge, which is instantly placed at the inquirer’s disposal. 

The library owes its origin to the spleen and to the nobility 
of Thomas Carlyle. The spleen came first: Carlyle needed 
books of reference while he was writing his Cromwelly he could 
not afford to buy them all, and the journey from Chelsea to the 
British Museum Library was a vexatious one. Besides, when he 
got to the British Museum he found other people reading there 
too, which gave him the feeling of a crowd, and it is impossible 
to work in a crowd: “add discomfort, perturbation, headache, 
waste of health.” Grumbling and growling at his miserable fate, 
be betook himself to the drawing-room of Lady Stanley of 
Alderley in Dover Street, and burst forth there; even in Iceland, 
he said, the peasants could borrow books, and take them away 
to read in their huts during the Arctic night; only in London 
was there this “shameful anomaly”. The company tried to 
soothe him or to change the subject, but his growls continued; 
books, books, one ought to be able to borrow books. And 
before long he effected one of his junctions between private 
peevishness and public welfare, and persuaded other men of 

300 



THE LONDON LIBRARY 


distinction to combine with him in launching a library. Glad- 
stone, Hallam, Grotc, Monckton Milnes joined him. A meeting 
was held at the Freeman’s Tavern to promote a scheme for “a 
supply of good books in all departments of knowledge”. Lord 
Eliot was in the chair, and Carlyle made a fine speech. It is 
said to be his only speech. Here are some sentences from it : 

A book is a kind of thing that requires a man to be self- 
collected. He must be alone with it. A good book is the purest 
essence of the human soul. . . . The good of a book is not the 
facts that can be got out of it, but the kind of resonance that 
it awakens in our own minds. A book may strike out of us a 
thousand things, may make us know a thousand things which it 
does not know itself. . . . The founding of a Library is one of 
the greatest things we can do with regard to results. It is one 
of the quietest of things ; but there is nothing that I know of at 
bottom more important. Everyone able to read a good book 
becomes a wiser man. He becomes a similar centre of light and 
order, and just insight into the things around him. A collec- 
tion of good books contains all the nobleness and wisdom of 
the world before us. Every heroic and victorious soul has left 
his stamp upon it. A collection of books is the best of all 
Universities; for the University only teaches us to read the 
book: you must go to the book itself for what it is. I call it a 
Church also — which every devout soul may enter — a Church 
but with no quarrelling, no Church-rates. . . . 

At this point, Carlyle was interrupted by laughter and cheers, 
and sat down good-temperedly. His speech is too optimistic, in 
view of our present information; also too subjective in its em- 
phasis on the “resonance” from books; also too little aware 
of the power of concentration possessed by many readers, which 
enables them today to continue through an air-raid. But it is 
a noble utterance. It recalls us to the importance of seriousness, 
and to the preciousness and the destructibility of knowledge. 
Knowledge will perish if we do not stand up for it and testify. 
It is never 'Safe, never harvested. It has to be protected not only 
against the gangster but against a much more charming and 
seductive foe: the crowd. “I know what I like and I know what 
I want,” says the crowd, “and I don’t want all these shelves and 
shelves of books. Scrap them.” 

The Library started in two rooms at 49 Pall Mall, with fjve 
hundred members, and three thousand b^ks. Conditions were 
Spartan; no ink or paper was provided, and for a time there 
was no clock. In 1845 moved into St James’s Square, and 

301 



THE ARTS IN ACTION 


now it has a a membership of four thousand, and about four 
hundred and seventy thousand books, together with various 
luxuries, including a comfortable reading-room. Its rise is 
largely due to a great librarian. Sir Charles Hagberg Wright, who 
died last year. Hagberg Wright had a European connection, 
and a European outlook. He was free from the insularity which 
has such a numbing effect on the collecting of books, and it is 
largely thanks to him that one feels the library to be not English 
but civilized. For the moment it has one overwhelming problem 
before it: that of not getting smashed and not getting burnt. 
But if normality returns it will have the task of getting into 
touch with the thought and literature of the Continent, however 
repellent the mental state of the Continent may be. And — a 
more congenial task — it will have to get up to date on America. 
It has never admitted, and it must never admit, the idea of 
exclusion; in Hagberg Wright’s wise little pamphlet. The Soul's 
Dispensaryy there are some pertinent remarks on this, and a 
curious account of the war which he had to wage after the last 
war with various government departments before he could 
regain liberty for the reimportation of foreign literature. 

[1941] 


302 



Places 




A Letter to Madan Blanchard' 


The London Library 
St James’s Square 
London 

April 1931 

My dear Madan, 

Captain Wilson keeps telling me about you, and I feel I should 
like to write you a line. I shall send it by airmail to Paris, but 
from Paris to Genoa in a pre-war express. At Genoa the con- 
fusion will begin. Owing to the infancy of Mussolini the steam- 
packet will not start on time, and will frequently put in for 
repairs. So slow is the progress that the Suez Canal may close 
before it can be opened, and my letter be constrained to cross 
Egypt by the overland route. Suez is full of white sails. One 
of them, tacking southward, will make India at last, another 
bring tidings of Napoleonic wars on a following breeze. Smaller 
boats, duskier crews. Brighter dawns? Quieter nights any- 
how. The world is unwinding. What of Macao, where no 
news follows at all? What of the final transhipment? The last 
little vessel scarcely moves as she touches the Pelews, the waves 
scarcely break, just one tiny ripple survives to float my envelope 
into your hand. As the tide turns, I reach you. You open my 
letter a hundred and fifty years before it is written, and you read 
the words “My dear Madan”. 

Before I forget, there are messages. Don’t lose the compass 

^ My correspondent is not imaginary. See An Account qf the Pelew Islands^ 
situated in the western part of the Pacific Ocean, Composed from the journals and nwi- 
munications of Captain Henry Wilson^ and some of his officers, who, in August 1783, 
were there shipwrecked in the Antelope, a packet belonging to the Honourable East India 
Company, by George Keate, Esq., F.R.S. and S.A. (Dublin, Luke White, 
1788.) 

See also India Office, Marine Records, 570a and 570c, where hii name is 
spelt Blanshard. 

See furthermore Rupack Street, Rotherhithe, London, S.E. 

305 



PLACES 


you asked for. Maintain the pinnace and her tackle in proper 
repair. Help the natives to work any iron they recover from 
the wreck, and look after the arms and ammunition for them. 
3(^23 8 j . 3^. wages are still due to you — do you want them? 
Above all Captain Wilson asks me to “request Blanchard he will 
never go naked, like the natives, as, by preserving the form of 
dress his countrymen have appeared in, he will always support 
a superiority of character; that he may be better enabled to 
follow this advice, he was furnished with all the clothes we could 
spare, and directed, when these were worn out, to make himself 
trowsers with a mat.” He hopes that all this has been done, and 
that you have not forgotten your Sundays. You may follow 
Pelew customs in other ways. He sees no objection to two wives, 
since Abba Thulle offered them, indeed a refusal might well cause 
offence, but Sunday stands apart. Knot a string to remind your- 
self of it, or count coral insects, or something. Prince Lee Boo 
saw the importance of Sunday as soon as he landed in England, 
and has indeed gone so far as to be buried in Rotherhithe Church. 
How about baptizing your Cockilla and Cockathey? — though 
this is my suggestion, not the Captain’s. He says that I am not 
to plague you with niceties, especially as you can’t read, and 
indeed wants me to draw a picture of a church and a pair of 
trousers, and leave it at that. But I’m writing, because there’s 
just a chance that, on the turn of the tide, the answer to my 
question may float back to me. 

I want to know why you stopped behind when the others 
went. 

At the present moment I’m stuffed in between books, and old 
ladies with worried faces are making notes in long armchairs, so 
I feel it natural enough you should stop. The ends of the earth, 
the depths of the sea, the darkness of time, you have chosen all 
three. But when you chose them you were stuffed in some- 
where or other yourself, latitude 6° 25' N., longitude 136° E,, 
date 12 November 1783, so what were your grounds for deciding? 
Did it start as a joke? Your mates never took you seriously, and 
Wilson talks of your dry sense of humour. You helped them to the 
very last to build the sloop, you even came aboard as she was 
moving to show where a sail had been stowed, then you took 
leave without the least regret, “as if they were only sailing from 
London to Gravesend, and were to return with the next tide”. 
They couldn’t believe their eyes when you went and sat down with 
the savages and the canoes, it seemed like a dream. Even Prince 

306 



A LETTER TO MADAN BLANCHARD 


Lee Boo was amazed. He pointed to you as the canoes fell 
astern, and then he pointed to himself and said: “I go with his 
people, he stop with mine. But I go with wise English, he stop 
with the savage Pelew. I go to visit King George and God, he 
only visit King Abba Thulle my father. Oh mystery! How 
curious!” Captain Wilson then invited him to dine, after which 
he started being sick. 

That ramshackle craft got safely to China, looking more like 
a packing-case than a sloop, with every sort of rag flapping, and 
the black and white magic stuff still showing round the stern. 
The John Company oflicials at Canton were not too pleased 
with the vision. They had sent out the Antelope^ you see, one 
of their best vessels, and this was what came back, and they 
questioned Wilson pretty straightly over what had happened. 
1 suspect — owing to my knowledge of history — that the Antelope 
had been despatched to annex the Pelew Islands for Great Britain, 
instead of which the Pelews have annexed the Antelope^ and she 
now forms part of the coral reef at Oroora. Wilson had to 
explain this away as well as he could, also the disappearance of 
the stores, the death of Quarter-Master Godfrey Minks (drowned 
through swimming ashore with two suits of clothes on), the 
mortality among the Chinese crew (occurring no one remem- 
bered when) and the absence of two dogs and yourself. On 
the other hand, he could point to Prince Lee Boo, and this 
certainly calmed the officials. Lee Boo was a hostage, though 
the word was never used, he ensured the good behaviour of his 
father. The Company’s plan was to educate him in England, 
and send him back to rule the islands for us; he was to take 
with him horses, dogs, cows, pigs, goats, seeds, clothes, rum, and 
all that makes life bearable; he was to oust Qui Bill from the 
succession, conquer the Artingalls with musket fire, and reign 
over corpses and coconuts in a gold-laced suit. The small-pox 
had something to say to all that, and there will be no more talk 
of annexation yet awhile. You may rest in peace, my dear 
Madan, if rest is what you want, and your king Abba Thulle 
has saved his kingdom at the moment he lost his son. Such an 
amiable youth, and so intelligent. First he was puzzled by 
houses, then he called everything a house; at Portsmouth he 
was “put into a little house which was run away with by horsps, 
most agreeable, the trees and fields went the other way”, and so 
reached London, which was “all fine country, fine house upon 
house up to sky”, and skipped about half the night in a four- 


L 


307 



PLACES 


poster bed, peeping between the curtains, and crying, In England 
a house for everything. Rowwise!” He must have been charm- 
ing. But I am more intrigued by you, about whom I know 
nothing except that you preferred the ends of the earth, the 
depths of the sea. Answer this letter if you can — there are various 
methods — and let me know why you went native, and how you are. 

I meant to break the Prince’s death to you gradually, but the 
news is already out, besides, I don’t see why you should mind. 
I enclose his picture — it will amuse you, and you will hardly 
recognize who it is. You saw him going on board man-naked, 
with masses of wild fruit in his arms. Well, in a week they 
taught him to wear clothes like these, in a fortnight he wouldn’t 
take even a waistcoat off except in the dark, and a year later 
you might have seen him in Mrs Wilson’s dining-room at 
Rotherhithe, offering her, with exquisite grace, three small 
cherries in a spoon. He had offered them in his hand at first, 
whereat the old lady had smiled slightly — you too may not 
know, but cherries are never handed in the hand. Observing 
her smile, he resorted to a spoon, and “a blush actually forced 
itself through his dusky complexion”. Nothing was too refined 
for him, or too moral; he embraced civilization with the grace 
of a courtier and the integrity of a curate. He admired all 
Englishmen. He adored all Englishwomen; he called the old 
ones “mother” — the young ones — we shall never know. I wish 
he hadn’t died — he must have been a dear. He seems to have 
loved his country. He was always talking about it, and collecting 
rubbish to sow there when he got back. His chief treasure was 
two little barrels of blue glass on stands, which an ofRcial gave 
him in Canton. His chief pleasure: driving in St James’s Park, 
close to where I am writing to you now. The Wilsons would 
not take him about much, for fear of infection. He went to 
see Lunardi go up in a balloon, but failed to mistake the balloon 
for a house, so was bored. Most days he was at school — an 
Academy for young gentlemen close by, and many a merry talc 
did he bring back, but never an unkind prank. The Wilsons 
were devoted to him — he and young Harry used to practise 
javelin-throwing for hours in the attic — and there is no doubt 
that he came to his end among friends. You can tell this or 
not tell it to Abba Thulle as you like. Probably you had better 
not tell it, for the noblest of savages is apt to be deranged by 
the death of a son, and whatever else this letter does I do not 
want it to do you harm. 


308 



A LETTER TO MADAN BLANCHARD 


Though the good Captain and his household strove 
Each other to excel in deeds of love . . . 

Will this, when told thy father, noble Chief! 

Stop the strong current of resistless grief? 

Has not imagination, in alarms, 

Pourtray’d his son return’d with arts and arms, 

To bless his kingdom with a lasting race 
Of warriors all, and all in love with peace? 

Shall he, regardless of each social tie. 

Calmly resign Lee Boo, without a sigh? 

And will unmoved thy gen’rous uncles stand 
To hear thou died’st regretted in our land? 

Ah no 1 . . . 

This is from an anonymous poem which someone sent Wilson 
after the funeral. I, too, feel, “Ah no!” If the generous uncles 
realize that we have, with the best intentions, committed murder, 
they will not be unmoved, and when they see you alone among 
them, and you’re just his age — well, perhaps they’ll make you 
their king instead, but I wouldn’t risk it. I would watch Abba 
Thullc tying a knot in a string at every full moon until his son 
comes back with the wise English, and I would say nothing. 

What about your own relatives? I don’t even know whether 
you’re English or French. I find you signed on to the Antelope 
at Falmouth, but that means anything, and the books in the 
library here make their usual imbecile noises when I mention 
your name. Here are Metamorphoses , mcewrs et instincts des insectes, 
by Emile Blanchard. Would this attract you as a connection? 
Or Samuel Laman Blanchard’s Collected Poems. May I send 
them you? Or a letter from Pierre Blanchard, Sur les questions 
qui divisent VEglise gallicane. Or Edward Blanchard’s Descriptive 
Guide to the Great Western Railway. Or Frank Nelson Blanchard’s 
A Revision of the King Snakes : Genus Lampropeltis, This is what is 
termed research. The Madans offer even wider scope to the 
earnest student, but I shall not pursue it beyond Thelyphthora^ a 
Treatise on Female Ruin. This helpful work was composed by 
one Martin Madan, only three years before the Antelope struck, 
and him, if anyone, I assign to you as uncle. I haven’t any news 
about your mates either — they scattered and got other jobs — 
Nick Tyackc, little Will Cobbledick and all. Young Mr Devis 
stopped in India, to paint portraits there, the rest of the party 
proceeding to England as aforesaid, via St Helena. The two 
arrow wounds he got on your expedition still hurt him in the 

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PLAGES 


jaw. Do you remember when Mr Devis drew Abba Thulle’s 
wives, and they were so frightened — Ludee in particular, that 
very pretty one ? Are your Cockilla and Cockathey very pretty 
too? I suggested to Wilson that they might be, which would 
explain your vagaries, and he answered yes, they very well 
might be, but no one knew, since they had not arrived from 
the interior by the time the sloop sailed. He also said that you 
were known to have formed “no special attachments on the 
island” — it seems rather to have been a general feeling, something 
connected with the Artingall wars. It was in a canoe among 
savages and Englishmen mixed, coming back from the second 
war, that you said, “I mean to live here for ever.” Wilson was 
irritated, for he had noticed nothing remarkable about you ; you 
were like any other seaman at £2 a month, good-tempered, 
inoffensive, quiet, enjoyed fighting — the usual thing; he took it 
for insolence when you stuck to it, and perhaps still isn’t quite 
sure. “Did you ever want to stop on there yourself, sir?” I 
asked him. He sighed, “Ah well, ah well,” and looked at his 
wrist. The bone with which Abba Thulle invested him still 
encircles his wrist, he won’t have it removed, and polishes it 
every evening to keep his luck, as he was told. “This denotes 
that I am a Rupack, or noble, of the first rank,” he continued, 
smiling, “and it was conferred on me by the natives in front 
of one of their public assembly halls or ‘Pyes’.” Dr Keate says 
the bone belongs to a whale, but in my judgement it is a merman’s, 
for they arc not uncommon in the China seas.” I questioned 
him more on the Pyes, and he said, “Ah well, the Pyes, most 
remarkable, most.” I like to hear him sigh “Ah well”. It runs 
under so much of his talk. He will never forget the three months 
he spent on the island, or the Apples of Paradise they brought 
him the morning he sailed, or the canoes escorting him over the 
reef while they cried, “Come again to us, good Englishman, 
come!” The English will not come again — at least I hope not. 
Your island has swung away from ours into what we choose to 
call darkness, and into what I can’t help calling life. 

Look at Lee Boo ! Think how it ended, in spite of all the care 
they took. Mr Sharp (your late surgeon) never let him out of his 
sight, and as soon as the first trace of infection appeared they sent 
for Doctor Carmichael Smith too. Doctor Smith examined 
him, and told the Wilsons at once that he must die. A few days 
later he knew it himself. He was walking across the room, saw 
himself in the glass, and was disgusted — shook his head, and said 



A LETTER TO MADAN BLANCHARD 

that his father and mother, thousands of miles away, were 
grieving. To Mr Sharp he said: “Good friend, when you go 
back to Pelcw, tell Abba Thulle that Lee Boo take much drink 
to make small-pox go away, but he die ; Captain Wilson, Mother 
Wilson, very kind — all English very good men — much sorry 
he could not speak to the King the number of fine things the 
English had got — he do all they tell him, but he die.” The little 
barrels of blue glass were to be given to the king. As long as 
Doctor Smith was with him, he complained of his symptoms in 
case he could be cured, but at other times he thought only of his 
friends. To add to their misery, old Mrs Wilson lay ill in the next 
room, and he kept calling out to her “Lee Boo do well, mother,” 
to comfort her, or tried to visit her, and had to be stopped. Hot 
baths, blistered back and legs — the boy endured it all, sensible, 
unselfish, ultra-civilized to the last. What he really thought, no 
one knew or has dared to guess. He managed to pass away 
without distressing the Christians or disappointing the philosophers, 
and he has a tablet in Rotherhithe churchyard consequently. 
John Company paid for it, and for the funeral, too, though the 
Wilsons would gladly have settled it all themselves. All Rother- 
hithe attended — the two little painted figures up on the alms- 
houses couldn’t ever have looked down on so vast a concourse — 
officials from London, all the young people from the Academy, 
although it was their Christmas holiday. The stone was put up 
after a year, which gives enough time for all flesh to decay. 

To the Memory 
of Prince Lee Boo, 

A native of the Pelew, or Palos Islands ; 
and Son to Abba Thulle, Rupack or King 
of the Island Coorooraa; 

who departed this Life on the 27th of December 1784, 
aged 20 years ; 

This Stone is inscribed, 

by the Honourable United East India Company, 
as a Testimony of Esteem for the humane and kind Treatment 
afforded by His Father to the Crew of their Ship 
the Antelope, Captain Wilson, 
which was wrecked off that Island 
in the Night of the 9th of August 1783. 


Stop, Reader, stop ! — let Nature claim a Tear — 
A prince of Miney Lee Boo, lies bury’d here. 


3 ” 



PLACES 


I almost shed a tear, but not quite ; he was rather too harmless 
a blackamoor — such a puppet, he always did as he was bid, and 
people like that don’t sepm quite real. The people who touch 
my imagination are obstinate suddenly — they do break step, and 
I always hope they’ll get by without the sergeant punishing them. 
It was so like poor Lee Boo that he loved above all things to see 
the Guards drilling in the Park. They are drilling there still, so 
are the ladies in the long chairs in this library, so are the books 
in the shelves. If it isn’t one set of rules it’s another, even for 
heroism. I ought to feci free myself, as I’ve health, strength, 
and am middle-aged, yet I can’t keep my hat on in a church, for 
instance, even if no one’s looking, and if I’m fighting never 
manage to hit below the belt. While not getting fussed over 
this, I can’t but remember the people who managed better, and 
it’s in order to meet them in the flesh that I study history. Here 
and there, as I rake between the importancies, I come across them 
— the people who carried whimsicality into action, the salt of 
my earth. Not the professional whimsies — their drill’s dearer 
than anyone’s — but the solid fellows who suddenly jib. The 
queer thing is, we all admire them — even when we’re hard-bitten 
disciplinarians like old Wilson. They’ve got hold of something 
which we know is there, but have never dared to grasp in our 
hands. A sort of stinging nettle. I went down to the tomb the 
other day, and thought, “No, he isn’t quite good enough, he was 
stung when he wasn’t looking, which happens to anyone.” I took 
down a lot of notes about Rotherhithe church, the neighbour- 
hood, Shad Thames, etc., thinking they would interest you, but 
if they interested you you’d have come back to them, so I tore 
the notes up and wandered about feeling rather tired and out of 
place, then I got across the river to Stepney, and through the 
City, in at Aldgate and out at Newgate, back to this part, where 
I live now. 

Well, that concludes my news, and now it’s your turn. I will 
enclose you one more poem, and then I’m done: 


O’er the mighty Pacific whose soft swelling wave 
A thousand bright regions eternally lave, 

’Mid rocks red with coral and shellfish abounding. 
The note of the parrot and pigeon resounding : 
Crowned with groves of banana and taper bamboo 
Rise the gay sunny shores of the Isles of Pelew. 


31a 



A LETTER TO MADAN BLANCHARD 


This is how a Miss Heisch, before she married a Mr Hookey, 
imagined your present home. I laughed the first time I read 
her poem, but the second time I found myself sighing “Ah well!” 
Write to me if you possibly can — I suppose on the bark of some 
tree. Lower it one evening as the tide turns, and watch it drift 
out through the coral reefs. The monsoons will hurry it west- 
ward, and the spray begin whispering “Progress” against it. 
Swifter boats, paler crews, and an intelligent interest among 
savants as it is raised aboard in a dredge off, let us say. Reunion. 
“C’est bien une Icttre?” Pourquoi pas? It is addressed? 
Apparently! Then forward it onward to England. The waves 
are rising, the world’s winding up, but King George is still on 
his throne, so’s God. Boom! Before the last echo of 1815 dies 
away, 1914 strikes, and here we are. Your letter now takes to 
the air. Heavily surcharged, liable to customs duty, enterable 
under income tax, subject to quarantine, notifiable, ccnsorable, 
confiscatable, it crashes through the library window, and explodes 
in my hand. None of the old ladies notice it — they arc still 
researching. I wait until the envelope of smoke has vanished, 
I find my right spectacles, and I decipher, a hundred and fifty 
years after it was written, the single word “aaa”. 

What can “aaa” mean? Perhaps you have forgotten your 
English. I will send for a Pelew dictionary. While it is coming 
I have one more thing to say to you. 

Once I used to come across an Irish clergyman — an unusual 
fellow, I never liked him much, he died before your time. He 
invented a group of islands to relieve his feelings on, and oddly 
enough placed some of them south-east of Formosa — that’s to 
say, more or less where you actually are. One of these islands 
contained very small men, another very large ones, a third was 
inhabited by horses, and the fourth flew. The clergyman was 
too bad-tempered to take much notice of what he was doing: 
I mean, whether the men were big or little they were intended 
to make men of his own size look small, and so with his horses : 
he didn’t care for horses but he hated people, and used horses 
for saying so. Well, in one of the islands he imagined men 
living for ever. It sounded like Paradise, but of course there 
was a catch — I will not tell you what, but it is a terrifying one, 
and nothing he has ever said to me has upset me more. If he 
is right on the subject of eternal youth in the southern seas, don’t 
answer this letter, in fact you won’t want to. But if I am right, 


313 



PLAGES 


send the answer that tells everything, the answer I have imagined, 
“aaa” (Pelew for Yes).^ 

Yours ever, 

E. M. Forster. 

^ My letter was never delivered. An explanation for this can be found in 
A Supplement to the Account of the Pelew Islands; compiled from the journals of the 
Panther and Endeavour, two vessels sent by the Honourable East India Company to 
those Islands in the year 1790, by the Reverend John Pearce Hockin, of Exeter 
College, Oxford, M.A. (London, printed for Captain Henry Wilson by W. 
Bulmer and Co., Cleveland Row, 1803.) 

[1931] 


314 



India Again 


I 


It was a dull, cold Friday morning in October 1945 when I left 
England. Two days later, on the Sunday afternoon, I was in 
India. Below me lay the desert of Rajputana, baked by the sun 
and blotched with the shadows of clouds. The plane came down 
for half an hour near the dragon-shaped fort of Jodhpur, then 
took off again, and it was Delhi. I felt dazed. And we had 
travelled so fast that we were ahead of schedule, and had no one 
to meet us. Suddenly very slow, instead of very quick, wc jogged 
in a tonga through the Delhi bazaars, our luggage in front, our 
legs hanging down behind, the dust rising, the sun setting, the 
smoke drifting out of the little shops. It became dark and the sky 
was covered with stars. Were we lost? No. An unknown host, 
an Indian, received us, and next day I stood on the high platform 
of the Great Mosque, one of the noblest buildings in India and 
the world. Profound thankfulness filled me. The sky was now 
intensely blue, the kites circled round and round the pearl-gray 
domes and the red frontispiece of sandstone, sounds drifted up 
from Delhi city, the pavement struck warm through the soles of 
my socks; I was back in the country I loved, after an absence of 
twenty-five years. 

I was bound for a conference of Indian writers. The All- 
India Centre of the P.E.N. Club had invited us. The people I 
was to meet were nearly all Indians, of the professional classes — 
doctors, lawyers, public servants, professors at the university, 
businessmen. Many of them were old friends or the sons of old 
friends. They were what is termed “intellectuals” and they lived 
in towns. I did not see much of the countryside nor of the indus- 
trial conditions. I met a few Englishmen but not many, and have 
often looked round a crowded room and observed that I was the 
only westerner in it. Such are my credentials, or, if you prefer, 
such are my limitations. 

The big change I noticed was the increased interest in politics. 
You cannot understand the modern Indians unless you realize 
that politics occupy them passionately and constantly, that 

315 



PLACES 


artistic problems, and even social problems — yes, and even 
economic problems — are subsidiary. ^ Their attitude is, “First we 
must find the correct political solution, and then we can deal 
with other matters.” I think the attitude is unsound, and used 
to say so;)still, there it is, and they hold it much more vehemently 
than they did a quarter of a century ago. When I spoke about 
the necessity of form in literature and the importance of the 
individual vision, their attention wandered, although they lis- 
tened politely. Literature, in their view, should expound or 
inspire a political creed. 

Externally the place has not changed. It looks much as it did 
from the train. Outside the carriage windows (the rather dirty 
windows) it unrolls as before — monotonous, enigmatic, and at 
moments sinister. And in some long motor drives which I took 
through the Deccan there were the same combinations of hill, 
rock, bushes, ruins, dusty people and occasional yellow flowers 
which I encountered when I walked on the soil in my youth. 
There is still poverty, and, since I am older today and more 
"thoughtful,(it is the poverty, the malnutrition, which persists like 
a ground-swell beneath the pleasant froth of my immediate 
jcxpcricnce. I do not know what political solution is correct. 
But I do know that people ought not to be so poor and to look 
so ill, and that rats ought not to run about them as I saw them 
doing in a labour camp at Bombay. Industrialism has increased, 
though it does not dominate the landscape yet as it does in the 
West. You can see the chimneys of the cotton mills at Ahmeda- 
bad, but you can see its mosques too. You can see little factories 
near Calcutta, but they are tucked away amongst bananas and 
palms, and the one I have in mind has an enormous tree over- 
hanging it, in whose branches a witch is said to sit, and from 
whose branches huge fruit occasionally fall and hit the corrugated 
iron roofs with a bang, so that the factory-hands jump. No — 
externally India has not changed. And this changelessness in 
her is called by some observers “the real India”.! I don’t myself 
like the phrase the r eal India ’i ’. I suspect it. It always makes 
' me prick up my ears. But you can use it if you want to, either 
for the changes in her or for the unchanged. “Real” is at the 
service of all schools of thought. 

It is when you leave the country, or the streets of the town, 
and go into the private houses, that you begin to notice a second 
great alteration, second only to politics — namely the lifting of 
purdah, the increasing emancipation of women. It struck me 

316 



INDIA AGAIN 


particularly in cities which are largely Moslem, such as Lahore 
and Hyderabad, where women once kept rigidly behind the veil. 

I have been in my life three times to Hyderabad, some of my 
happiest Indian days were spent there, so I have been able to 
trace this change. My first visit was in 1912 and then I saw 
scarcely any Indian women. My second visit was in 1921, when 
I was admitted into some family circles and saw a good deal of 
what may be called “semi-purdah” — ladies coming out into 
company, but not coming avowedly, and retiring at any moment 
behind the veil if they felt disposed to do so. Today, purdah has 
broken down at Hyderabad, except amongst the most conserva- 
tive, and at the receptions to which I went the women sometimes 
outnumbered the men. Since they kept to their lovely Indian 
saris, the effect was exquisite ; it was a delight to look round at so 
much gracefulness and graciousness, at so many and such well- 
chosen colours. I don’t know how far into society this lifting of 
the veil has extended. But I imagine that sooner or later the 
change will extend to the villages and transform the Indian social 
fabric from top to bottom. Our world does not go back, though 
whether it progresses God alone knows, and in India, as in the 
West, women will shortly have the same opportunities as men for 
good and for evil. 

The receptions I have been mentioning usually took the form 
of buffet dinners — they are an innovation since my time. Long 
tables are loaded with Indian food, and sometimes one table is 
labelled “vegetarian” and the other “non -vegetarian”. You 
help yourself, or are helped. I take away pleasant memories of 
these buffet dinners, memories of Indians moving elegantly 
through well-filled rooms, with well-filled plates in their hands, 
and miraculously conveying food to their mouths in the folds of a 
chapatti. There is rationing, but its workings are mysterious and 
I did not grasp them or suffer from them. For the well-to-do, life 
is much easier in India than in England. The shops are full of 
tinned delicacies for those who can afford them — butter, cheese, 
even plum puddings. For the poor, life is much harder there than 
here. 

The Indians I met mostly talked English. Some of them spoke 
very well, and one or two of them write in our language with 
great distinction. But English, though more widely spoken 
than on my last visit, is worse spoken, more mistakes are made 
in it, and the pronunciation is deteriorating. “Perp6ndicule” 
for “perpendicular”. “Pip” into my office for “pop”. Here 

317 



PLAGES 


are two tiny slips which I noted in a couple of minutes, and both 
of them made by well-educated men. The explanation, I think, 
is that Indians at the sclipols and universities are now learning 
their English from other Indians, instead of from English teachers 
as in the past. Furthermore, they have little occasion to meet 
our people socially and so brush it up; intercourse is official and 
at a minimum, and even where there are mixed clubs the two 
communities in them keep apart. So it is not surprising that 
their English is poor. They have learned it from Indians and 
practise it on Indians. 

Why talk English at all? This question was hotly debated at 
the P.E.N. conference of All-India writers. Writers from central 
or upper India were in favour of Urdu or Hindi as a common 
language for the whole peninsula. Writers from Bengal favoured 
Bengali, and it has great claims from the literary point of view. 
Writers from the south, on the other hand, preferred English. 
The debate, if I may say so, continues, and into it, as into every- 
thing, come politics. I mention it to indicate the trend of events, 
the change in emphasis. Meanwhile, in this uneasy interregnum, 
English does get talked and gets interlarded in the oddest way 
with the Indian vernacular. I was travelling one day to Baroda 
in a crowded second-class carriage. Indians, my luggage, their 
luggage, myself and a number of loose oranges were piled up 
together in confusion, and the Indians were arguing. Their 
language was Gujarati, but they used so many English words that 
I followed what they were saying. They were arguing about 
religion and free-thought. I intervened and was welcomed into 
the conversation, which was now carried on entirely in English out 
of courtesy to me. I did not follow it the better for that, but they 
peeled me an orange and we parted friends. Indeed, it is difficult 
to conclude an Indian railway journey on any other note. Their 
response to ordinary civility is immediate. I don’t think they are 
particularly friendly in the street — if you ask them the way they 
are suspicious. But squashed in a railway carriage they seem to 
expand. And my reason for wanting English to be the common 
language for India is a purely selfish reason : I like these chance 
encounters, I value far more the relationships of years, and if 
Indians had not spoken English my own life would have been 
infinitely poorer. 

My visit ended all too soon. On a Friday afternoon in Decem- 
ber — it was again a Friday — I was walking about in the sunshine 
of Karachi. And on the Sunday evening I was in London. 

318 



INDIA AGAIN 


Our train was icy cold, it arrived at Waterloo two hours late, 
midnight, thick fog, refreshment-rooms closed, waiting-rooms 
closed, local trains gone, no taxi could leave the station. The 
grumpy railway policeman to whom we appealed was glad we 
were uncomfortable, and said so, while a poster on the wall 
exhorted us to practise even greater austerity, since it was peace 
time. It was not much of a return, it was not like the arrival in 
Delhi, and as the policeman’s sulky bulky back disappeared into 
the gloom I found it understandable that not everybody should 
care for England. 


The conference I had attended was held at Jaipur. A thousand 
people, nearly all of them Indians, were assembled in the great 
town hall. It is a magnificent apartment. At one end was a 
platform, on which sat Mrs Naidu, the president of the confer- 
ence, the Prime Minister of Jaipur, and other notables. At the 
lower end five big arches opened onto the outer world. The 
arches were hung with straw curtains, through which could be 
seen the tops of trees and the roofs of the Maharajah’s palace, 
sweltering in the October sunshine. Above the arches, high on 
the wall, ran a lattice, and behind it every now and then shadowy 
gracious figures passed, just discernible against the brightness. 
Silent as ghosts, colourless though not formless, they were the 
figures of ladies going to their purdah galleries to watch our 
deliberations. Or perhaps they were coming away from their 
purdah galleries because we had bored them. I don’t know. 
But that sort of cloud movement high up in the thickness of the 
wall, that ethereal shuttle playing left to right or right to left 
behind the lattice, went on all the time, and gave a sense of 
spaciousness and of strangeness. We might be the future, but we 
were observed by the past. 

Down in the hall we plodded away at our agenda. We had 
come to discuss literature as a unifying force, the future of the 
Indian languages, the Indian copyright act, a scheme for an 
encyclopaedia, and so on. Fascinating to me, though I knew 
nothing of the subjects, was the symposium on the Indian 
languages. Twenty minutes were allotted to each. There were 
sixteen languages in all, and so writers from all parts of the 
peninsula could learn what was being done elsewhere, and could 


319 



PLACES 


contact their colleagues, perhaps for the first time. ( A sense of 
enlargement and of complexity stole over the audience as they 
discussed whether, despite^ all these languages .and perhaps 
‘Ithrough them, India could not be one.l In fact we slid towards 
politics. Everything out there does. But we did not go over the 
edge. It remained a conference of writers, and the organization 
which convened it is pledged to be non-political. 

Out of school we amused ourselves. We rode on elephants — 
though I myself find such a ride elevating rather than amusing. 
We looked at the curious pink city of Jaipur — an early example 
of town-planning — and went to the romantic ancient capital of 
the state which lies above it in a crack of the hills, and is said 
to have as its neighbour a fabulous hoard of jewels. We entered a 
Hindu temple — a rare experience in these days for the non- 
Hindu; twenty-five years ago, if my memory serves, entry was 
not so difficult. We attended a political demonstration. We 
ran over a cobra. But the conference dominated, and I would 
like to refer, before leaving it, to the moving address made by the 
Prime Minister of Jaipur, Sir Mirza Ismail. He described the 
atmosphere in which all modern writers must function, and held 
it to be their duty to keep in touch with the world, but not as 
politicians. Not much of the oratory was of his high order or 
struck his international note. But his concern with moral issues 
was typical of other speakers, and typical, too, his indifference 
to art for art’s sake. Listening to him and to others, I felt that 
India had indeed changed. The Jaipur conference would have 
been impossible twenty-five years back. 

When it was over, I travelled about, meeting many writers, 
and acquiring a good many books. These last are following after 
me in a boat and have not yet arrived. When I have digested 
them I shall have a better general notion of the Indian literary 
scene. Here meanwhile are a few notes. Book production: very 
active, though the authors arc miserably paid. Short stories arc 
popular; I read some excellent ones in Bengal. Poetry often 
echoes T. S. Eliot or Auden. Drama is not prominent. Criticism 
weak. Indians have a marked capacity for worship, or for denun- 
ciation, but not much critical sense, as criticism is understood in 
the West. As for great writers, there is no one alive today of 
the stature of Tagore, or of Iqbal. I have had the honour of meet 
ing each of these great men once. Both are dead now, and their 
disappearance has impoverished the scene. 

The cinema. Since my last visit to India, a film industry has 


320 



INDIA AGAIN 


sprung up. I believe it is the second largest in the world. It has 
its headquarters in Bombay. Its results are evident, and in the 
cities advertisements brighten the walls or hang from the lamp- 
posts. They often take the form of a youth and a maiden. The 
maiden gazes before her at the traffic, the youth gazes down the 
nape of the maiden’s neck; and thousands of passers-by see them 
and go in the evening for more. I went twice myself, but had no 
luck. My first film was crude anti-Japanese propaganda. It 
was shown in a remote Indian state, in an excellent little modern 
cinema; you could not have wanted a better-designed house — 
very simple, with a royal box at the back. The hero was a police 
inspector, who sang a good deal, and the heroine, who also sang, 
tricked some fifth columnists. No money had been spent on it, 
and there was no talent in it. The other Indian film I saw was at 
Delhi: an ambitious historical film on the subject of the Emperor 
Humayun. This was much better — decent photography and 
acting — but I could not agree with my ardent young host who 
declared it was far superior to our King Henry V, That remark, 
though I did not tell him so, was an example of the Indian un- 
critical spirit. The production of Humayun was fussy and the 
camera was always on the move. But though I was not fortunate 
with my two pictures I am certain that a great future awaits the 
Indian film industry. There is the climate, there is the scenery; 
for subjects there is the dramatic history, and the varied contem- 
porary life ; and Indians have an innate power of acting naturally 
and of looking graceful. So I wish that youth and maiden on the 
advertisements well, even when they warble a duet. 

Of modern architecture, the chief example I saw was the great 
new university at Hyderabad. This is an interesting innovation. 
It is built in the American fashion on a campus, a wide open 
space several miles from the centre of the city, in beautiful 
country, among flowering shrubs. And it attempts to blend two 
styles of architecture which occur in the Hyderabad state — one 
style being Mohammedan, and the other derived from the famous 
Buddhist caves of Ajanta. It is an ambitious work and there is 
nothing comparable with it over here; you could put dear little 
Cambridge down in the middle of it. And another achievement — 
this time in engineering — is the titanic steel bridge over the Hugh 
at Calcutta. It connects the squalid railway station with the 
tousled city, and the contrast between it and both of them is 
overwhelming. 

Painting and sculpture: are they progressing? A good deal 

321 



PLACES 


may be heard about them in the future. For painting, Bengal 
is the chief centre. I went to several studios in Calcutta, and I 
also visited Santancketan — the home and the creation of Tagore. 
Santaneketan, about eighty miles from Calcutta, is an impressive 
little place, a sort of cultural and humanistic university. I spent a 
night there, and understood why it has exercised a mystic in- 
fluence on many of its sons. You will either know a great deal 
about Santaneketan or else you will never have heard of it. 
It is that kind of place. Its name means “The Home of Peace”. 
The painters whom it has nurtured tend to the religious, the gentle, 
the ethereal. Down in Calcutta, on the other hand, arc pictures 
which are definite, robust, and based on the folk art of Bengal. 
Folk art there has a genuine existence among the people — I saw, 
for instance, a delightful collection of dolls which had been made 
in the villages. Each doll was a joy and sometimes a terror, too — 
dolls can be both at once. And the art of the best-known Calcutta 
painter, Jamini Roy, came out of the villages and is based on the 
earth. I went to Mr Roy’s studio. Many small white rooms were 
filled with his work, for he is prolific. Although a Hindu, he once 
made an imaginative approach to Christianity, and his “Chris- 
tian” pictures, particularly of the Last Supper, have great 
poignancy. I met other excellent painters too — younger men, 
who call themselves the Calcutta Group, and there has been an 
exhibition of Bengal art at Government House under the auspices 
of the Governor’s wife, Mrs Casey, and the Calcutta Group has 
helped her with it. 

To the tragic problem of India’s political future I can contri- 
bute no solution. And perhaps you may think that there was not 
much justification for allowing a person of my type to go out at a 
moment of crisis. If you think that, you will agree with a chorus 
of indignant colonels at Delhi who were overheard exclaiming, 
“What next! Fancy sending out old gentlemen who fall ill and 
can do no possible good. ” As regards myself, the colonels were 
not accurate. Old I am, gentleman I may or may not be, ill I was 
not. I have never felt better. And did I do any good ? Yes, I did. 
I wanted to be with Indians, and was, and that is a very little 
step in the right direction. 

And turning from myself to people who are far more important 
than I am, namely to the young, I do pray that young English 
people who like Indians and want to be with them will be 
encouraged to go to their country. Goodwill is not enough. Of 
that I am too sadly convinced. In fact, at the present moment 

322 



INDIA AGAIN 


goodwill out there is no use at all. The reactions to it are instantly 
cynical. ^The only thing that cuts a little ice is affection or the 
possibility of affection. Whatever the political solution, that canj 
surely do no harm.^ But it must be genuine affection and liking.'" 
It must not be exercised with any ulterior motive. It must be an' 
expression of the common humanity which in India and Englandl 
and all the world over has been so thwarted of late^ and so 
despised. 

[1946] 


323 



Luncheon at Pretoria 


I have only been to Pretoria once, but it was a great success. It 
happened back in the twenties. I was staying with some acquain- 
tances at Jo’ burg — thus we called it — and the idea was that we 
should go to lunch with some acquaintances of theirs over at 
Pretoria. We were to drive over and see the sights, and, after 
lunch, attend an official reception at Union Buildings. 

This idea was carried out with good humour. The drive was, 
to be sure, not a remarkable one. The boundless spaces of South 
Africa were in a measured mood, they rolled inadequately, and 
every now and then a label was stuck in them to show that we 
were passing the entrance of private property. The dust was 
like any other dust, and there was a good deal of it, and the trees 
were grayish and lanky. But Pretoria turned out to be a dear 
little place, with the touch of two civilizations upon it. Down 
below were the straight streets of quiet modest Dutch houses, 
and the statue of Oom Paul by the railway station. Up on the 
hill was a fine Imperial effort: Union Buildings, with its pavilions, 
its long terraces, its two domes. An agreeable morning was spent, 
the sights were indicated and viewed with complaisance, and 
then it was time for lunch. 

The Pretoria acquaintances of my Jo’burg acquaintances were 
bankers. They lived in a very good-class suburb. The husband 
was away on business, so his wife, a dignified, handsome and 
civil lady, had to do the honours. She welcomed us to her cool 
marblified house, which had a commodious drawing-room, a 
dining-room, a hall, and (as I was to discover later) the usual 
offices. There were eight or ten guests, all going on to the govern- 
ment reception, like ourselves. They behaved as guests do, or did, 
behave. We went into tlie drawing-room and talked a little, and 
then wc went into the dining-room and talked a little more and ate 
and drank a little. It would be unjust to call us a set of dull dogs. 
Wc were not dogs, we were not even dull. We were not amusing 
or bored or critical or cross or anything. We were just a collection 
of well-fed people who did not know one another well and did not 


324 



LUNCHEON AT PRETORIA 


want to. This sort of entertainment used to go on — and pray 
why not? — all over the padded portions of the globe. The 
acquaintances gather and goggle, their mouths fall open, food 
goes into the mouths and noises come out, neither at the call of 
necessity, and never simultaneously. (Belching is confined to the 
Tribes without the Law.) Sometimes the mouths open sideways 
to express deference, benignity or repletion. Wearing a blue serge 
suit which had cost, when new, eleven pounds, I performed these 
antics with my peers, I too simpered pleasantly. 

Then came the dish which transformed our lives. 

It was a chicken fricassee. 

It was a fricassee of the moister persuasion. The birds lay low 
in the water, and the various vegetable adjuncts scarcely broke its 
steaming surface. The mixture swished and trembled upon an 
enormous oval platter, which no doubt was of silver, having re- 
gard to the status of the house. The house-boy carried it round, 
inclining towards each guest with deference but without intimacy, 
and each guest, without looking at the house-boy, swayed both 
hands leftward, and removed a moderate portion to the plate. 
When he came to me, he tilted the platter a little, to convenience 
me further. A piece of chicken dragged its moorings and slid to 
the edge, another followed, and then the gravy gathered in a 
great tidal wave, gathering strength as it moved, and rolling 
little onions in its depths. I was busy simpering, and had no 
conception of what was upon me. Something stung my wrist. 
The platter had overbalanced, and the entire fricassee poured over 
me and splashed onto the carpet. 

“Sah, sorry sah, sorry,” said the house-boy, waving his foot 
which had been scalded. I answered with a shriek of laughter. 
Why is laughter so difficult to describe? I hooted, I yelled, I 
shrieked. I saw a merrythought perching on my waistcoat and 
went all faint. An onion bumped, I thought I should have died. 
Up jumped our hostess, flung away her napkin, took hold of me 
where I was dry, and led me to a suitable apartment. She too 
was weak with laughter. The guests jumped up, waving their 
arms and spluttering, more Negroes came running to the cries, 
the children’s Scotch Nanny appeared with a bottle of ammonia 
from the nursery. Not a moment was to be lost if I were to be 
got right for the government reception. “Sah, sah, sorry,” 
repeated the house-boy. He had lost his head, but withbut 
animation. I gave him my trousers — in some ways our gravest 
problem. He dropped them upon the tessellated pavement of 

325 



PLAGES 


the hall, and they were there, a lamentable concertina, when 
other guests arrived. Our hostess lent me her husband’s sky- 
blue Japanese dressing-gown. Though not of the best period, 
it was a sumptuous garment, and clad in it I hopped round the 
house like a tropical bird, now taking a sip of coffee in the dining- 
room, now putting in some work at the pantry sink. “He likes 
to look like that, ” she wailed, indicating me to the newer arrivals. 
“He always looks like that. He likes to.” 

Afterwards, rationalizing the incident, she praised me without 
stint, she interpreted my hysteria as a deliberate piece of good 
manners, designed to save her lunch party. It is true that most 
bankers would not have laughed. Their sense of values is too 
sound. And King Edward VII is said to have ill-brooked the 
arrival of a tureen of anchovy sauce upon his shirt-front, at a 
moment when he was cementing the Entente Cordiale. But it 
was not true that I had behaved well. I could not help myself; 
except in the severely scientific sense, I was not behaving at all. 
“You were wonderful, quite marvellous,” she insisted. Pleasant 
it was to walk by her side into Union Buildings, and in my blue 
serge suit too. Miracles had been wrought upon it by the Nanny 
and Negroes, and for a short time I did not look so bad. Towards 
the end of the reception some ominous clouds appeared, and the 
drive back to Jo’ burg was altogether too searching. I arrived 
with every grease-spot stencilled in African dust. 

So next day it went to the cleaners, and was back in time to 
be packed for my journey northward. It came out for a mayoral 
tea in Rhodesia. The noted pattern reappeared, faint at first, 
then unmistakable. I had it seen to again on the boat, and 
wore it for a lunch at Mombasa. Three days of the red soil of 
Uganda finished it off, and by Egypt it was clear that it could 
not be worn again. So when I got home I claimed from the 
insurance people and told them the whole story. They forked 
out four pounds, but not graciously. They said that the under- 
writers had expressed surprise. 

[1940] 


3*6 



The United States 


America is rather like life. You can usually find in it what you 
look for. If you look for skyscrapers or cowboys or cocktail parties 
or gangsters or business connections or political problems or 
women’s clubs, they will certainly be there. You can be very 
hot there or very cold. You can explore the America of your 
choice by plane or train, by hitch-hike or on foot. It will prob- 
ably be interesting, and it is sure to be large. 

I went there for the first time at the age of sixty-eight. By 
sixty-eight one is, so to speak, a pilgrim grandfather who knows 
very clearly what to look for when he disembarks. I had no 
doubt as to what I wanted to discover in America. It was to 
provide me with scenery and individuals. The scenery was to 
be of two sorts — gigantic and homely. The individuals were not 
to be representative — I never could get on with representative 
individuals — but people who existed on their own account and 
with whom it might therefore be possible to be friends. That is 
the America I looked for and was to find. My visit was a com- 
plete success from my own point of view. 

After a respectful glance at New York, I went a hundred miles 
north into the Berkshires. It was April. The trees were leaf- 
less — thousands and thousands of birch trees, their trunks whiter 
than the birch trees here, milk-white, ghost-white in the sharp 
sunshine, covering the sides of the valley and the crests of the 
hills; and among the birches pushed pine and hemlock — ^which 
is like a not very dark green yew. Was I in England ? Almost, 
but not quite. That was again and again to be my sensation, 
and in the Arizona Desert I was to feel I was almost but not quite 
in India , and in the Yosemite Valley that it was not quite 
Switzerland. America is always throwing out these old-world 
hints, and then withdrawing them in favour of America. To 
return to the Berkshires: after a few days’ quiet the snow dps- 
cended and silence became absolute. The country became 
primeval and polar — endless purity, under spreading motionless 
trees. I can never be grateful enough for those opening days of 

327 



PLACES 


silence and snow. They imposed proportion. They made me 
realize that America is not all town; such a generalization would 
be truer of England. It^ is country — controlled no doubt by 
mechanized gadgets, still it is country. I was glad I had not 
gaped too long at the New York skyscrapers. Exciting as they 
arc, they mislead. They do not epitomize what lies behind them. 
Presently the snow melted. Where it had lain appeared dark 
brown earth and occasional pale lilac hepaticas, and the spring 
began — in double quick time compared to our spring. 

The Berkshircs are homely scenery. Gigantic scenery is more 
difficult to describe, but I will make an attempt. Suppose your- 
self walking on a Surrey common near Bagshot. There arc a 
good many fir trees about, the soil is sandy, and the prospect 
rather dull. Suddenly the common stops, and you are standing 
without any warning on the brink of a precipice which is one 
mile deep. One mile into the tortured earth it goes, the other 
side of the chasm is miles away, and the chasm is filled with 
unbelievable deposits of rock which resemble sphinxes draped in 
crimson shawls. That, as far as I can get it into a single sentence, 
gives you my first impression of the Grand Canyon of the Colo- 
rado River, but the Grand Canyon would need many sentences 
to describe and many books. It is the most astounding natural 
object I have ever seen. It frightens. There are many colours in 
it besides crimson — strata of black and of white, and rocks of 
ochre and pale lilac. And the Colorado River itself is, when one 
gets down to it, still more sinister, for it is muddy-white and very 
swift, and it rages like an infuriated maggot between precipices 
of granite, gnawing at them and cutting the Canyon deeper. 
It was strange after two days amongst these marvels, and terrors, 
to return to the surface of the earth, and go bowling away in a 
bus between little fir trees. 

The second item I sought in America was the human, the 
individual. My work lay mainly in universities, and there and 
elsewhere I found the individuals I sought. I had expected 
generosity and hospitality. I had not expected so much tact, 
charm and sensitiveness; here was the delightful surprise. 
Wherever I went I found delicate understanding of our troubles 
in Britain over food and clothing, and a desire to help that was 
never patronizing. This was not confined to the highly educated 
classes. I recall a cheap eating-house iq Nevada where some 
strangers came up and asked what they could send. I remember 
the chambermaid in the hotel at Salt Lake City who when I 

3^8 



THE UNITED STATES 


offered her a tip replied, “I don’t like to take your money, 
brother, you need it more than I do. ” That is the sort of remark 
which comes from the heart and goes to the heart, and in the 
light of it and the warmth of it I found difficulty in examining 
the defects of the American character. The defects are, I suspect, 
lack of discrimination, emotionalism, a nd a tenden cy to narrow 
th e idea of freedom into fre edom to make money . '*What else 
have we fought the war for.^" a business acquaintance inquired. 
But I cannot feel these defects arc basic. My friends reassure 
me against this, and not only my friends: the faces of strangers 
lighting up everywhere, compassionate, respectful, anxious to 
help. The individuals I met were mostly of Anglo-Saxon stock ; 
I also knew some Swedish and some Italian farming people, 
made some oriental contacts, and had one or two Mexican 
friends. I did not have the good fortune to get to know any 
Negroes. On the whole I saw as much of the human landscape 
as an elderly traveller may reasonably expect, and I liked it. 

But now comes a qualification. Although the Americans I 
encountered were full of charitable feelings towards Great 
Britain, I cannot say that they showed much interest in us other- 
wise. I have often been asked since my return home: “What 
do they think about us over there?” Indeed, it is often the only 
thing English people want to know. The answer, not very 
flattering to our pride, is that the Americans scarcely think about 
us at all. They are curious about our Royal Family, they are 
grateful and appreciative towards Mr Churchill, they are — or 
were — enthusiastic over British films. That is all. They do not 
discuss our Empire. India, over which they have been so 
critical in the past, is now scarcely in the news and seems to bore 
them. Even Palestine was seldom mentioned. An explanation of 
this indifference is that they concentrate, as we all do, on home 
affairs, and that when they do think of foreign affairs they think 
of Russia. China to some extent, but mostly Russia. Russia is 
alw^ays weighing on their minds. They are afraid of war, or that 
their standard of life may be lowered. I shall never forget a 
dinner party, supposedly given in my honour, at which one of the 
guests, a journalist, urged that atomic bombs should be dropped 
upon the Soviet Union without notice, and quoted with approval 
a remark which he inaccurately ascribed to Oliver Cromwell: 
“Stone-dead hath no fellow.” “That’s good, isn’t it, Tom?” lie 
called to another journalist. “Stone-dead hath no fellow”. 
Tom agreed that it was very good, and they shouted, “Stonc- 


329 



PLAGES 


dead hath no fellow” i n unison or antiphonically for the rest of 
the evening. They were cultivated men, but as soon as the idea of 
Russia occurred to them their faces became blood-red; they 
ceased to be human. Nb one seemed appalled by the display 
but myself, no one was surprised, and our hostess congratulated 
herself afterwards on the success of her party. This obsession over 
Russia should be realized by all who would understand America, 
and it explains in part her lack of interest in us. 

I did not encounter such hysteria elsewhere, and maybe did 
not frequent the circles where it is likeliest to occur. Most of the 
people I was with were not influential or highly placed: many 
of them were teachers, and some of them were young — students, 
or they practised music or painting or acting or the ballet, or they 
were doing small commercial jobs or working on the land. My 
general impression was of good temper and goodwill and hope- 
fulness. I could darken the picture, no doubt. I do not take the 
Statue of Liberty in New York harbour as seriously as she takes 
herself. And I did encounter hints of oppression and of violence, 
and of snobbery. But the main verdict is favourable, and I do 
beg anyone who happens to have fallen into the habit of nagging 
at America to drop it. Nagging is so insidious. It often resides 
not in what is said but in the tone of voice. It proceeds not from 
considered criticism but from envy and from discontent — and, of 
course, life out there is far more comfortable for the average man 
than it is here. The food is nicer, if dearer, the clothes are nicer 
and cheaper, the cold drinks are not lukewarm, and the railway 
carriages are not dirty. But these advantages over ourselves 
should not embitter us against the people who enjoy them. Nor 
should we charge it against all Americans that their politicians 
do what our politicians tell them, and tell us, they ought not to 
do. 

I chanced to end my three months’ visit in the same district 
of the Bcrkshircs where it had begun. Now it was high summer. 
The little spring from which I fetched water every day had al- 
ready begun to flag. The meadows were full of flowers — ox-eye 
daisies, black-eyed susans, orchids, and an under-carpet of 
creeping jenny; the meadows sloped down to a brook where the 
farm-hands bathed. There were swallow-tail butterflies and 
fritillaries, and the bobolink, a very agreeable bird, skipped from 
post to post carolling, and another bird, the phoebe, repeated 
‘‘phoebe, phoebe, phoebe”, whence its name. At night there 
were fireflies to remind us that this was in the latitude of Madrid. 


330 



THE UNITED STATES 


Thunderstorms did not disconcert them, and I would watch 
their flash vanish in the superior brilliancy of lightning, and re- 
appear. Some of them flew at the level of the grass, others across 
the curtain of birch trees. They were extraordinarily bright ; it 
was a good year for fireflies, and the memory of them sparking in 
the warm rain and the thunder is the latest of my American 
impressions, and the loveliest. 

[ 1 9471 


331 



Mount Lebanon 


Two hundred years ago, Ann Lee, a Quaker of Manchester, 
England, went to New England and became a Shaker. She 
founded a sect. The early records of the Shakers are curious and 
show fantastic elements which have disappeared. There was an 
attempt to rectify Christianity in the interests of the female — an 
attempt also made by Mariolatry in the Middle Ages. Mother 
Ann made a half-hearted bid for equality with Christ, and there 
arc hymns — not sung today — in which homage is paid to them 
both as the co-regents of the universe, and Adam celebrated as 
bisexual. This had to be dropped. The sect did not take the 
intransigent route of Mormonism, it dug up no plates of gold, 
and commended itself to its neighbours by hard work, good if 
dull craftsmanship, satisfactory bank-balances, honesty, and celi- 
bacy — recruiting its ranks from orphanages. It became a quiet 
community of men and women — simple folk who liked to feel a 
little different; even the simplest have this weakness. Meetings 
were held where sometimes they were seized by the Spirit and 
shook; otherwise nothing remarkable occurred. 

The sect today has almost died out, for its industry has been 
superseded by industrialism, and orphans have something better 
to do. But a few settlements of aged people survive, or recently 
survived, and the friends with whom I was stopping in Massa- 
chusetts in 1947 were in touch with the most considerable of these 
settlements: Mount Lebanon, where Mother Ann herself had 
once dwelt. It was arranged that we should call at Mount 
Lebanon. We had with us a pleasant journalist from the New 
Yorker who had been commissioned to write the Shakers up, 
though I never saw his article— only what he wrote up on me. 
It was a twelve hours’ expedition. The month was April but 
the weather wintry, and myriads of birch trees were bare and 
sharp against the sky. We ascended to a broad pass with a view 
over sub-Alpine scenery, half-covered with snow. The settlement 
was downhill, below the high-raised modern road. Life had 
shrunk into one enormous house, a huge wooden box measuring a 


332 



MOUNT LEBANON 


hundred and eighty feet long and fifty feet thick, and it was five or 
six storeys high. We knocked at the door, and an old lady peeped 
out and greeted us in a dazed fashion. This was Eldcress Theresa. 
Further down the box another door opened and another old lady 
peeped out. This was Sister Susan, and she was bidden to retire. 
They seemed a bit dishevelled, and it was agreed we should go 
away for lunch and come back again; they wished they could 
have entertained us. My friends were in great excitement. The ex- 
perience was more romantic for them than it was for me, and the 
idea of home-made chairs hanging from pegs on a wall filled 
them with nostalgia. It was part of the “ dream that got bogged ”, 
the dream of an America which should be in direct touch with the 
elemental and the simple. America has chosen the power that 
comes through machinery, but she never forgets her dream. I 
have seen several instances of it. The most grotesque was the 
handicraft fair in Greenwich Village, where pieces of copper, 
wood and wool, which had been bothered into ugly shapes at 
home, were offered for sale at high prices. Another instance is 
the yearning for Mexico, whose peasants were drunk and dirty, 
but they did sing. And another instance was these Shakers, to 
whom, having had our lunch at a drug store, we returned. 

They had smartened themselves up no end. Elderess Theresa 
wore a dove-coloured cape, and Sister Susan’s hair had been 
combed. Sisters Ellen, Ada, Mamie and Ruth also appeared — 
the first-named sensible and companionable and evidently run- 
ning the place. Each had plenty of room in the vast building, 
since the community had shrunk : it was like an almshouse where 
the inmates are not crowded and need not quarrel, and they 
seemed happy. I had a touching talk with the Elderess, now 
ninety-one, who had come from England, and dimly remembered 
a baker’s shop in the Waterloo Road, and the voyage in a sailing 
ship away from it. She did not regret the days when Mount 
Lebanon had eighty inmates. “It is much better like this,” she 
said. Her room was full of mess and mementoes, all of which she 
misdescribed as Shaker-made. It was nothing to the mess in the 
apartment of Sisters Ada and Mamie, who kept kneeling without 
obvious reason on the carpet and crackling toilet-paper at the 
parrot to make him dance. On their wall ticked a clock which 
had the face of a cat, and a cat’s tail for pendulum. Up and down 
the enormous passages Sister Susan stalked, her raven locks flying, 
and gesticulating with approval on the presence of so many 
men. We saw the dining-room, where a place was laid, a little 


333 



PLAGES 


humourously, for Christ. Wc saw the communal meeting-room. 
Did they — er — shake ever ? No — nobody shook now. Did they — 
er — meet here for prayer? No, said the Elderess complacently. 
We used to meet once a month. Now we never meet. They were 
in fact bone idle and did not even know it. I found myself wish- 
ing that other groups, the Oxford for instance, would imitate 
them. 

While the Mw Yorker questioned them, I went out and looked 
at the five or six other houses which completed the original 
Mount Lebanon colony (Shaker houses are always in little colon- 
ies). They were empty except for ponderous wooden machinery. 
The ground still sloped into a view, and bright streams and pools 
of water twinkled at every corner. The sun shone, the snow 
melted, the planks steamed. The simplicity of the buildings was 
impressive but not interesting. I went back into the main build- 
ing to meet Brother Curtis. For the sisters above described only 
occupied half the huge house. On each floor, in the longitudinal 
central passage, was a door, which was locked or supposed to be 
locked, and beyond the doors, all alone in the other half, dwelt 
the enigmatical Brother Curtis. He could also be reached by 
walking along outside. He was a healthy elderly man in overalls, 
very stupid from the New Yorker point of view, though probably 
not from his own. Much time was spent in trying to make him 
say something characteristic; he was understood to have dif- 
ferent ideas on carrying in logs from the sisters’ ideas, but since he 
carried in the logs his ideas prevailed. Perhaps he had been 
interviewed before. He had a roguish twinkle. Then we took our 
leave. One of our party found a tin dust-pan in the attic, and was 
allowed to purchase it; and I myself became an object of envy 
because the Elderess presented me with a ruler. It is an ordinary 
wooden ruler, it is eighteen inches long, it rules, but little more 
can be said of it. We waved goodbye — Sister Susan again 
bursting out of her special door — and that is the last I saw of 
these gentle harmless people, though the New Yorker returned 
on the following day to consolidate his investigations. To me, 
the Shakers were interesting because they interested. My com- 
panions were moved by them to a degree which I could not share ; 
they were a symbol of something which America supposes herself 
to have missed, they were the dream that got bogged. Mount 
Lebanon has, I believe, now been closed down. 

[1951] 


334 



Ferney 


Cultivated monkeys, Charles and I clung to the iron palings of the 
park. Froggy as well as monkey, he appreciated better than I did 
what we saw, but even to me the sight was an exciting one. For 
this was Ferney. So this was Ferney! This was the house that 
Voltaire built, those were the trees he planted, here his niece, 
Madame Denis, and others whom I read about afterwards in La 
Vie Intime de Voltaire^ by Perey and Maugras, a very entertaining 
book — here Madame Denis, anyhow, lived, as shapeless as my 
sentence, but generally liked. With a heart like a warming-pan 
and a figure like a dumpling, Madame Denis queened it here and 
reigned it, acted it and reacted it, danced it, reasoned it, un- 
reasoned it, she drove in from Geneva to take possession covered 
with diamonds, she flounced away to Paris in a pet, she sneaked 
back. Voltaire was pleased when she arrived, thankful when she 
left, delighted when she returned. However, that is enough about 
Madame Denis for the moment. She is all in the book. We are 
clinging to the park railings. 

Our feet slithered upon the uncomfortable parapet. We 
wished they were more prehensile. Craning our noses to the left, 
we could see the chapel. It was a small and simple structure, 
and it looked a trifle moisL I cannot think of the right English 
equivalent of “moisi”. “Mouldy” will not do. “Moisi” must 
stand. After all, we are in France. That always was the ad- 
vantage of Ferney — it was just in France, and Voltaire, who pre- 
ferred a pop-hole to a moat, could be over the border into 
Switzerland if he felt nervous, and back again if his nerves re- 
laxed or reversed. The chapel ranked with the loca senta situ of 
which Virgil speaks, it had acquired the art of neglect with 
dignity, and had no wish to look trim. On its frontal was the 
famous inscription, “Deo erexit VOLTAIRE”, and we saw with 
delight that the lettering of the Voltaire was twice the size of the 
Deity’s. Proportion had been observed. Listen, while you look 
at this, to what they sang to him in the October of 1 767, on the 
occasion of the feast of St Francis of Assisi. They had begun the 


335 



PLACES 


day by going to Mass, at two o’clock they had dined in state, a 
vast concourse of people, at six o’clock they attended a perform- 
ance of two plays at his private theatre, and when this was over 
the actors and actresses, ’including Madame Denis, came for- 
ward in their brilliant dresses and grouped themselves around him 
and sang: 

L’Eglise, dans ce jour, fait a tous ses divots 
C 616 brer les vertus d’un p 6 nitent austere. 

Si I’Eglise a ses saints, le Pinde a ses heros, 

Et nous fetons ici le grand nom de Voltaire. 

Then came fireworks, then an enormous supper, and then a ball 
at which Voltaire, who was over seventy, danced until midnight. 
Yes: the chapel has done well to observe proportion. 

Straight ahead of us lay the chateau. It was quiet enough now, 
no singing, no guests, no work, the shutters were closed, the 
doors locked, and a man in an apron was sweeping up the leaves 
1939 — many of them, for our year was still at its June. 
Tourists were not admitted, and we were, we knew, almost the 
last of our sinewy tribe. Soon we should have to skedaddle for 
our tram. Lucky, happy we, to get this last peep at one of the 
symbols of European civilization. Civilization. Humanity. 
Enjoyment. That was what the agreeable white building said to 
us, that was what we carried away. It was not a large building 
and that has been part of the disaster. It was too small to cope 
with the modern world. A Ferney today would have to be enor- 
mous, with rolling staircases and microphones, if it was to func- 
tion proportionately, and if it was enormous could it be Ferney ? 
Even Voltaire felt that he saw too many people, and that the uni- 
verse, though fortunately bounded by Russia, was upon too cum- 
brous a scale. He could just illuminate it, but only just, and he 
died without knowing that he was the last man who would ever 
perform such a feat, and that Goethe would die asking for more 
light. On the crest of a wave Ferney sparkled. The boundaries 
of the universe were to extend bewilderingly, the common people 
were to neglect the pursuit of agriculture, and, worst of all, the 
human make-up was to reveal deadnesses and depths which no 
acuteness could penetrate and no benignity heal. 

His end was actually at Paris, and technically not happy. 
“ Count no man happy until he is dead,” saith the spirit of dull- 
ness. Happiness up to one’s final collapse is the better criterion, 
and this Voltaire achieved. The pains and fears of his last mo- 
ments (which most of us arc doomed to share) altered the sum of 

336 



FERNEY 


his life but inappreciably. The death-bed or death-tumble or 
death-jumble, death-battle, death-rattle, death-splinter, death- 
squirt, appalling as it will be to each deserted and dying indi- 
vidual, is a transition, not an epitome. It has no retrospective 
force. It does not taint (except in a gleam of diseased memory) 
any of the triumphs that have gone before. Against that over- 
emphasis, that priestly organization of the death-moment, Vol- 
taire had himself protested, it was part of the infamous thing he 
had tried to crush. His real end was Ferney, and there we saw him 
that afternoon, as a house and trees. 

Suppose he had come out as a person, and seen our snouts, 
what would he have done? He would probably have gone in 
again. But he would possibly have been very kind, and with a 
twentieth-century kindness, for he had an up-to-date heart. 
When his secretary’s children pestered him with questions which 
the eighteenth century deemed foolish, he would answer the 
questions seriously, and put aside his work to do so. When a 
waiter was nice to him at Mainz, he insisted on stopping at the 
hotel kept by the waiter’s father at Strasbourg. It turned out to 
be a dreadful doss-house, but he would not leave it, although he 
was at the height of his fame, for the reason that he had made a 
friendly compact with the Mainz waiter. Humanity to him 
was not a platform gesture. He got down to brass tacks over it. 
Humanity meant saving the Galas family, or being respectful to his 
secretary’s children, or to an unimportant little domestic. “Oh, 
but that is not the whole story,” saith the spirit of dullness, looking 
up from its ledger; “he was also a capricious, shifty, cruel, liti- 
gious, indecent, panicky capitalist; I have it all down.” And that 
exercise of a summing-up goes on, summing up an achievement 
which is a pattern, not a sum, and a pattern so intricate that the 
eye rests with the most conviction upon the spots of gold. Whether 
he would have greeted us is doubtful. Madame Denis, ever too 
sensitive to externals, would have recoiled with a moue^ I fear. 
But they would certainly have caught sight of us. I want to make 
that plain, for it brings out the restricted character of the site. It 
was more of a packet than a park. We and the chateau and the 
man sweeping leaves and the chapel and the porter’s lodge were 
all bunched up together among residential greenery. There was 
nothing august or wide-sweeping in the demesne, though two 
hundred years ago, before the trees grew up, there must have been 
views of the lake. Oddly enough, I catch a parallel with Max 
Gate as I try to reconstruct. A nest made by a celebrated literary 

337 



PLAGES 


man, going a little untidy. But, whereas Hardy belonged to the 
soil, the soil belonged to Voltaire, and one has not, when visiting 
Fcrney, any poignant sense of locality. Here is merely a place 
which he happened to* buy and make his own, after Cirey and 
Potsdam and Les D^lices had failed, and it is appropriate that he 
should have failed to die in it, and that his corpse should have 
been bandied about in revolutions, and perhaps got mixed up with 
Rousseau’s. 

But one cannot cling for ever to an alien pale, or peep for ever 
at a scene with which curiosity and hope are one’s only links. 
Monkeys must let go. “I am content to have seen Ferney,” 
remarked Charles, as he dusted his paws. I popped the object 
into my pouch for future use. One never knows, and I had no 
idea how precious it would become to me in a year’s time, nor 
how I should take it out, and discover that it had turned faintly 
radioactive. We caught the tram back to Geneva all right, 
crossed the almost unguarded frontier, and then we departed to 
our respective cages, which were closed and locked not long after 
we entered them. 

[1940] 


338 



Clouds Hill 


I used to stop at Clouds Hill in the old days with T. E. — I can’t 
ever think of him as Colonel Lawrence. It’s not exactly a show- 
place, there’s not much to see, only a tiny four-roomed cottage 
hidden away in a four-acre dell of rhododendrons in the Dorset- 
shire heathland. But it’s charming and it’s unusual, indeed there’s 
something magical about it. 

I first went there back in 1924. T. E. was then a private in the 
Tank Corps at Bovington Camp. We met down in a pub to talk 
over the Seven Pillars^ the early version of which he had allowed 
me to see. We scarcely knew one another, and the talk was de- 
cidedly sticky. Then he said, in a casual, diffident way, that there 
was an old cottage where he and his fellow soldiers sometimes 
went when they were off duty, to get a little peace and quiet or to 
play the gramophone: would I care to come up and see it? He 
took me up through the bleak, ungracious desert of Bovington Camp 
by a straight road which mounts slightly, and then falls over into 
a little dip into peacefulness and wildness. There was Clouds 
Hill. I liked the place at once. His friends were friendly, I felt 
easy, and to feel easy was, in T. E.’s eyes, a great recommendation. 
Two Greek words are over the door. He carved them himself. 
Ou phrontis — meaning roughly: ‘T don’t care.” They came, he 
told us, out of a story in Herodotus, a story about a young man 
who was going to marry a king’s daughter, but unfortunately 
during the dinner party he got drunk, stood on his head on the 
table and began dancing with his legs in the air. The king was 
shocked at such conduct in a prospective son-in-law, and said to 
him severely: “You have danced away your bride.” But the 
young man didn’t care. He replied: Ou phrontis, “I don’t care,” 
and continued to wave his legs in the air. That is the motto T. E, 
chose for Clouds Hill. We weren’t to care, as soon as we were in- 
side; we were to feel easy, and not worry about the world and its 
standards. 

In those days the two bottom rooms were full of firewood and 
lumber. We lived upstairs, and the sitting-room there looks now 


M 


339 



PLAGES 


much as it did then, though the gramophone and the books have 
gone, and the fender with its bent ironwork has been remodelled. 
It was, and it is, a brownish room — wooden beams and ceiling, 
leather-covered settee. *Here we talked, played Beethoven’s 
symphonies, ate and drank. We drank water only, or tea — no al- 
cohol ever entered Clouds Hill, in spite of the story from Herodo- 
tus. We drank out of pretty cups of black pottery. And we ate out 
of tins. T. E. always laid in a stock of tinned dainties for his 
guests. There were no fixed hours for meals and no one sat down. 
If you felt hungry you opened a tin and drifted about with it. 
It’s a grand way to feed; the drawback is that you may lose count 
of how much you are eating. That didn’t matter to T. E., who 
scarcely ate at all, but the rest of us sometimes went too far. You 
always know a place better when you’ve been ill in it, and I’ve 
been quite ill at Clouds Hill, from overeating out of those treach- 
erous tins. 

When I stopped there, I used to sleep in the little room oppo- 
site — it is nattily fitted up today with a bunk and drawers, it has 
a porthole and looks like a ship’s cabin, but then it was all any- 
how. T. E. slept in camp, coming out when he could during the 
day, as did the rest of the troops. It was fine being alone in 
Clouds Hill at night: so silent — and those were the times when 
there still was silence. Silence scarcely exists now — it is a lost 
luxury. One night the silence was disturbed by a nightjar, 
which perched on the roof above my head and churred and 
churred — the sort of fantastic thing that would happen at Clouds 
Hill. It’s annoying to be kept awake by a bird even when it’s a 
nightjar, so I went into the garden and shouted at the thing. It 
kept on churring. Finally I threw a stone. This missed the night- 
jar, as I had intended, but smashed a tile, which I hadn’t intended. 
T. E. was delighted when he heard of the mishap. He liked his 
visitors to leave these little evidences of their presence behind them. 
He declared that the whole afifair was an extremely good omen, 
he refused to have the tile replaced, and it is still broken today. 

I don’t know whether these trivial remarks convey the atmo- 
sphere of the p^ace — the happy casualness of it, and the feeling 
that no one particularly owned it. T. E. had the power of dis- 
tributing the sense of possession among all the friends who came 
there. When Thomas Hardy turned up, for instance, as he did 
one sunny afternoon, he seemed to come on a visit to us all, and 
not specially to sec his host. Thomas Hardy and Mrs Hardy 
came up the narrow stairway into the little brown room and there 


340 



CLOUDS HILL 


they were — the guests of us all. To think of Clouds Hill as T. E.’s 
home is to get the wrong idea of it. It was rather his pied-d-terre^ 
the place where his feet touched the earth for a moment, and 
found rest. I was to have stopped there yet again in May 1935, 
the date of his tragedy. I have been down there since, with 
thoughts which were necessarily sad, and there came into my 
mind an inscription which I once saw on a gateway in India: 
“Jesus — on whom be peace — said: The world is a bridge: pass 
over it, but build no house on it.” Clouds Hill is not so much a 
house as a point where T. E.’s feet tarried for a little on their all 
too swift passage through this world. 

The ground floor has no memories for me — except that there 
are a couple of twisted candlesticks, which used to be upstairs. 
The big lower room was fitted up by him in later years to sleep 
in, and for his books. He had a good collection, of modern stuff 
specially. For instance there was Bernard Shaw’s St Joan, in- 
scribed “To Private Shaw from Public Shaw”. And there was a 
copy of Hardy’s Dynasts with two inscriptions: the first “Colonel 
Lawrence from Thomas Hardy”, and the second “To T. E. 
Shaw for his comfort in camp from Lawrence”. He, as it were, 
passed the book on from one of his personalities to another! All 
these treasures have gone, and in the empty shelves has been 
arranged an exhibit of photographs. Some of these arc from 
negatives which he himself took when he was out East, others arc 
photographs of him ; there arc illustrations to the Seven Pillars and 
to Crusaders'^ Castles^ and a couple of photographs of the rooms as 
they used to be, and so on. The little room opposite — that’s now a 
bathroom containing a snowy and hygienic bath. Nothing of 
the sort in my time. I remember one of our party retiring into a 
corner with a coin, tossing it, and muttering to himself: “Heads I 
wash, tails I don’t. Tails. I’ve won.” And that represented our 
general attitude to washing. We did not allow it to win too 
easily. But — if I may mention so unhcroic an article — a hot 
bottle did figure. T. E.’s kindness and consideration over trifles 
were endless, and after he had returned to camp one would find a 
hot bottle in the bed, which he put there in case his precious visi- 
tor’s feet should be cold. That was so like him. The harder he 
lived himself, the more anxious he was that others should fall soft. 
He would take any amount of trouble to save them. 

There’s a little piece of grass outside the house, also “.The 
Nook”, a pleasant semicircle of rising terraces which he contrived. 
And a visit should end in a climb through the rhododendrons 


341 



PLACES 


behind to the upper lip of the dell. There you get a surprising and a 
noble view, right away down to the sea, and incidentally a new 
idea of rhododendrons. They don’t seem like ornamental bushes 
any more, they become part of the landscape. We used to pull 
the dead wood out of them for fires, and it burned splendidly. 
Clouds Hill, viewed from above its rhododendrons, shrinks into 
a tiny box. You get instead the vast expanses of the purple heath 
surrounding it, where gentians can be found, and sundew. T. E. 
cared intensely for the English countryside ; he was hoping to ex- 
plore it quietly upon a push-bike when the end came. 

[•938] 


34a 



Cambridge 


It is difficult to meditate on one’s dear old university without 
falling either into snobbery or priggishness. I am a prig, and 
Mr Steegman sometimes disconcerts me. For instance, when he 
says in his book: 

The poor man from the elementary school really does not get 
very much out of Cambridge. He is not likely to make many 
friends, and will almost certainly remain a fish out of water. 
He would be much wiser to go to one of the newer universities 
where he would feel less discontented with his lot. Discourag- 
ing though it may be for social reformers, the man from the 
elementary school is unquestionably excluded from everything 
that makes Cambridge worth while. 

Oh dear. As we push off in our punt, Mr Steegman doing all the 
work and doing it with efficiency and grace, as we glide under 
Clare Bridge and through the Gate of Honour and down the 
Combination Room of John’s, this little quotation worries me, 
like a pea under the cushions, and I ask myself what is wrong 
with it, or, if nothing, what is wrong with me. The prig tries 
to get down to brass tacks, in fact. What am I prepared to be- 
queath the place which I have loved for forty years, and where 
I have made my best friends? Do I really want the whole of 
its architecture to be remodelled into bed-sitting-rooms? Do I 
want its courts to be asphalted, and its lavatories to plunge and roar 
with municipal self-righteousness? Lavatories were few and far 
once. They belonged to the Silent Service, and were called 
Fourths because one of them was rumoured to lurk in the fourth 
court of Trinity. Ivy peeped. To go to one was an expedition 
only rivalled by the taking of a bath. Those hardships are 
vanishing. Hardship is vanishing, but so is style, and the 
two are more closely connected than the present generation sup- 
poses. The food that arrived on heads from the kitchens — ^luke- 
warm but from the kitchens — ^will soon arrive no more. 

The punt drifts on, floating away from the cafeteria and cash 
register down the broadening stream. Here is the Pitt Press, 

M2 343 



PI-ACES 


charming, the freshman’s first chapel. If we rise up a certain 
staircase in Caius, we can see the far-away tower of the Pitt Press 
through the whole breadth of the Senate House, shimmering and 
bending behind two thidenesses of glass. This is my private dis- 
covery. I announce it half asleep. And now the Campanile 
of the University Library is mercifully concealed behind the 
Chestnuts of Jesus, and now we bob in the Market Piazza, where 
a fine new building, the Guildhall, has arisen in the nick of time. 
How happy am I that Mr Steegman should praise the new 
Guildhall! The centre of the town will never go smartiboots 
now, and never become a civic centre. What a lot my guide 
knows! How deftly he steers ! I drowse. A cushion falls into the 
Pern. And then again that disquieting pea. 

This time the pea is feminine in gender. 

While the various parliamentary reforms can be defended as 
well as attacked, it is unusual to find anyone defending Girton 
and Newnham. . . . Cambridge owes a great deal to the muni- 
ficence of such women as the Lady Clare, the Countess of 
Pembroke, Queen Margaret, the Lady Margaret, and the 
Countess of Sussex. But these pious Foundresses founded their 
colleges for men and the argument is pointless. . . . The most 
serious indictment of the women students, apart from the fear- 
someness of the women which those students almost always 
become unless they marry quickly and forget it all, is the com- 
plete pointlcssness of their being there. 

So women, like elementary-school men, must be banned from 
our precinct, because they cannot enter properly into its social 
life. Does not the rest of the educational world lie open, hood 
upon hood, gown upon skirt, mortar-board upon corduroy, until 
the appointments board creaks? O spare Cambridge! Is not 
the city a little one? Is she not unparalleled? Oxford, her 
swollen sister, is so distended by endowments as to be unrecog- 
nizable, and her old Gothic ornaments hang around her neck like 
a broken locket which she may at any moment swop. Cambridge 
still keeps her antique shape. No idealistic millionaire has yet 
raped her. The dons at her High Tables still rise into civilized 
conversation out of tired grunts. O leave her where she is and as 
she is, leave her to her peculiar destiny. She, Edinburgh and Bath 
arc the only towns in Great Britain to retain any style, and she is 
unique, because to style she adds intellect and the power to 
mould a certain type of male. So keep off, you women, ele- 
mentary and otherwise; you shall gain nothing from the Cam, 


344 



CAMBRIDGE 


not even a degree — that was the little trick it played you, ha ha! 
Horny-handed miners, meagre-faced technicians, high-collared 
clerks — go where you will feel less discontented, and where your 
fellow students will not decline to be your friends. Indians, be so 
good as to remedn at Patna. Americans, have you not Carolina 
for your portion ? 

In North Carolina the poets are fewer. 

We never were much at literature. 

The phantoms fly as I sing. So varied, but all so unsuitable, 
they fly and educate themselves where and how they will, and 
our punt drifts on, and Mr Steegman and myself are soon en- 
gaged in a passionate dispute on the subject of the Chimney at 
Jesus, What! He would destroy the Chimney? What! He calls 
it a “depressing flagged path between high walls ” ? I cannot con- 
tain my rage, and utter a series of little Cambridge shrieks. For 
the Chimney, to me, is part of a delicate dramatic effect; at the 
end of its calculated dullness rises Alcock’s rich Gate Tower, 
promising a different world — a promise faithfully fulfilled. I like, 
too, to think that Coleridge stole down it when he ran away to 
enlist in the Dragoons, and that Malthus paced up it as he planned 
how to decrease the human race and, incidentally, our troubles. 
I do not know its date — perhaps it did not exist in their day. All 
the same, hands off! 

This is my major architectural quarrel with Mr Steegman, so 
it may be gathered how fully, in this department, I accept him. 
He might perhaps have mentioned the court of Emmanuel which 
lies across Emmanuel Street — I always like it, although it did 
destroy a group of picturesque cottages. And he might have men- 
tioned — nobody does — the carving on the wooden west door of 
the chapel of King’s. Still, unlike the Chimney, these arc no 
matters for a blood feud. On we drift, and as each noted building 
appears and reappears I am delighted by the comments of a 
learned and courageous mind. The work of the young Wren, of 
Gibbs, Wilkins and Cockerell, is focused with that of the anony- 
mous medieval builders, until we sec our Alma Mater advancing 
physically down the centuries, not always logically or gracefully, 
but to the measure that fascinated her sons. 

So that if at night, far out at sea over the tumbling waves, 
one saw a haze on the waters, a city illuminated, a whiteness 
even in the sky, such as that now over the Hall of Trinity 


345 



PLACES 


where they’re still dining, or washing up plates, that would 
be the light burning there — the light of Cambridge. 

How splendidly these words express our faith ! How unlucky that 
they should have been Arritten by a woman ! 

The book is a guide to Cambridge, in the fuller sense of the 
word guide. Three parts. Cambridge as it was — ^historical; 
as it is — architectural; and modern Cambridge — mainly soci 
with surmises on what is to come. 

The Fellows went into Chapel on Monday before noon. . . . 
After prayers and sacrament they began to vote. . . . Thus 
they continued, scrutinizing, and walking about, eating, and 
sleeping; some of them smoaking. ... At the hour of two in the 
morning . . . never was a more curious, or a more divert- 
ing spectacle. Some wrapped in blankets, erect in their stalls 
like mummies ; others, asleep on cushions, like so many Gothic 
tombs. Here a red cap over a wig; there a face lost in a rug. 
One blowing a chafing dish with a surplice sleeve; another 
warming a little negus. . . . 

This is from the historical section. We have backed into the 
eighteenth century, and are assisting at the election of a Provost 
of King’s. The eighteenth century is an appropriate landing- 
stage, our punt moors, and I get out on the steps of the Whig- 
Conservative Club. Prig’s feelings are mixed. He has enjoyed 
his conducted tour, and found himself more of a snob than he 
intended. The selective Cambridge he loved cannot possibly sur- 
vive, except as a museum piece. But the Cambridge-open-to-all, 
the in-accordance-with-national-nceds-Cambridge will only be a 
technical finishing-school, an educational crammery, a degree- 
monger, not a university at all. I dislike Mr Steegman’s hopes, 
but I share his fears, and in this dilemma I proffer a third solu- 
tion — that of razing the whole sacred area to the ground. The 
dons and other portable valuables could first be transplanted to a 
safer spot, and Hitler would do the rest free of charge. She would 
survive as a memory then. And a memory can do more than cither 
a mummy or a travesty towards civilizing the world. 

But if it came to a vote I am agadnst my guide. I know so many 
elementary-school men who ought to have gone up twenty or 
thirty years ago, and who would have given as well as gained. 
And I know so many women who have retained their learning in spite 
of marriage, and their charm in spite of spinsterhood. He will say 
that these arc exceptions, and wrill also point out that he holds no 

346 



CAMBRIDGE 


brief for rank or wealth. This is true, but his conception of Cam- 
bridge lacks generosity, he is always scrutinizing the entrance 
lists, he will risk nothing which is not familiar to him socially; 
and if generosity is excluded the idea of a university becomes 
meaningless. 

I have been drawn to think rather of the tens who have failed 
than of the units who have succeeded, and of the ore which lies 
buried in our social strata than of the bright coins which circu- 
late from hand to hand. If a field of coal, or of some other 
mineral, lies unworked and unused, yet it is always there. It 
may be kept for some future age when its wealth will be more 
needed, and posterity will bless the prescience and parsimony 
of their ancestors who refrained from using it. But the human 
mind is born and lives and perishes. If it is unenlightened it 
passes away into its native darkness. 

This is generosity, this is the warmth without which all education 
is senseless, and it is not to be laughed away by dubbing it Social 
Reform. 

(Writing as I am on an academic theme, I had better give 
authority for my quotations throughout. The first two are from 
Mr Steegman’s Cambridge^ the third was imported from America 
by Lowes Dickinson, the fourth is from Virginia Woolf’s Jacob* s 
Room, the fifth is quoted by Mr Steegman from Cooper’s Annals 
of Cambridge, and the final one is from Oscar Browning.) 

[1941] 


347 



London Is a Muddle 


London is a muddle, and not always an unpleasant one. At 
the present time the muddle is being hidden away, as far as 
possible, for this is Coronation Year, but it remains, and it will 
re-emerge. If you want an example, look out of your bedroom 
window, even if the bedroom is in a hotel. Your view is sure 
to be “spoiled” by something vulgar or shabby, but it may be 
redeemed by something charming, entertaining, antiquated. 
Anyhow, it will not be all of a piece. 

Or go for a walk. You need not even leave the main thorough- 
fares, you need only look sideways from them with a little 
attentiveness, and you will see to right or to left the casualness 
and the confusion which are the Spirit of London. Stand, 
for example, at the City end of London Bridge. What do you 
see at the first glance? An enormous building called Adelaide 
House. Built in an Egyptian style, it towers into the sky, it 
plunges into the depths; in its vast cube are accommodated 
hundreds of businessmen with their clerks, typewriters and 
anxieties all complete, all making money as hard as they can 
for the sake of the Empire, and upon its roof, which is flat, are 
a garden, an orchard and a putting-green, where the anxieties 
of the businessmen can take another form. Adelaide House 
attempts to set the pace. It is pompous and practical; it suggests 
that London is a mart, a hub, a focus, a last word on something 
or other; it bullies the visitor as he approaches from the Surrey 
side. Wait a minute, though. What is that narrow chasm 
beneath, and what is that building down in the chasm, nestling 
against Adelaide’s flank? Descending by a ponderous and grimy 
stairway, you reach Lower Thames Street. Here quite another 
pace is set and quite another language spoken. Fish and their 
retainers from Billingsgate throng it in the early morning, lorries 
and drays rumble at all times. London Bridge is high above, 
and higher still — nearly two hundred feet in the air — the business- 
men are phoning or putting. And the building crouched in 
the chasm? What is that? Oh, that is only a third London — 

348 



LONDON IS A MUDDLE 


that is only one of Sir Christopher Wren’s best churches, St 
Magnus the Martyr. It is crouched between the grubbiness and 
the hygienic tiles, indifferent to both, still leading its own life, 
and letting the waves of traffic and business roar over its head. 
Notice the passage going through its tower and leading to a 
blank wall. A hundred and fifty years ago that passage was the 
footway of old London Bridge ; people went by it to go over the 
river. The city has piled itself up, like a geological series, and, 
perhaps, the process will continue until a skin of unsmashable 
glass is stretched over her, as in H. G. Wells’s dream. 

This Adelaide-Billingsgate-Magnus combination is typical of 
London, which is an untidy city, and ought not to be tidied up. 

Though attempts have been made to tidy her. Wren himself 
made one of them, and drew up a town-planning scheme after 
the Great Fire. The present Bishop of London, on the other 
hand, thinks that it is Wren who needs tidying, and he pulls 
down a City church whenever he can. St Magnus the Martyr 
has eluded him hitherto, but he has recently scored a success 
in the demolition of All Hallows, Lombard Street. Another 
attempt at tidying up was made over a hundred years ago by Nash, 
in the West End. It was a good attempt. Nash planned to 
connect Carlton House, where the Prince Regent lived, with 
Regent’s Park. His plan today is unrecognizable, but it made 
some progress, and I am old enough to remember what his 
Regent Street looked like while it was still untouched, I wish 
it was there today, for a bad muddle, instead of a good one, 
has superseded it. It was not great architecture, but it knew 
what it was doing, and where it was going; it was reasonable 
and refined. Of course, it had to be scrapped. Greed moulds 
the landscape of London, as of other great cities, and the Regent 
Street frontages were too valuable to be occupied by such lowly 
piles. Besides, they belong to the Crown, and the Crown seems 
even greedier and more unaesthetic than most landlords. So 
Nash went, and the present insipid mixture took his place. 

If you want a muddle, look around you as you walk &om 
Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus. Here are ornaments that 
do not adorn, features that feature nothing, flatness, meanness, 
uniformity without harmony, bigness without size. Even when 
the shops are built at the same moment and by architects of 
equal fatuity, they manage to contradict one another. Htfrc is 
the heart of the Empire, and the best it can do. Regent Street 
exhibits, in its most depressing aspect, the Spirit of London. 


349 



PLACES 


However, you can easily escape. Go, for a change, up the 
Caledonian Road, and lean over the bridge which crosses the 
canal, A much pleasanter muddle awaits you. A queer smell 
hangs about, sweetish aVid not disagreeable, and seems to rise 
from the water. The surroundings are grubby and cheerful, 
the colouring quiet, as is usual with London colouring, the 
district poor. The smell comes from the locust beans which are 
used for making cattle-food in an adjoining factory, and the little 
boys of the district go bathing at suitable times and steal the 
locusts. Yes, they pinch them. Almost like John the Baptist, 
though not quite, they tie them up in handkerchiefs, and push 
them before them through the savoury waters of Jordan, devour- 
ing them as soon as they reach shore. This, too, is London — a 
London undreamt of in Regent Street — nor is it the only vision 
to be gained from this particular bridge. Turn the other way 
and you will have a little surprise. For the canal disappears into 
the side of a hill. Pitch darkness, no lamps, no towpath. It 
has vanished under the heights of Pentonville. It keeps its course 
for over half a mile, absolutely straight, so that when the tunnel 
is empty the swimmers can see a tiny spot of daylight at its 
further end. Occasionally a string of barges passes through 
behind a tug, on its way to the docks. 

They are typical, these surprises, these oddnesses. No doubt, 
all cities which are large and old contain them — they are certainly 
to be found in Paris. But London has a deceptive air of dullness. 
One does not expect her to indulge in irregularities and pranks. 
The businessmen inside Adelaide House, the shops of Regent 
Street — these seem, at the first sight, to set the pace. Only when 
one prowls about and loiters and wastes time do the competitors 
become visible: the church of St Magnus hiding in Lower 
Thames Street, the canal hiding in the depths of Pentonville, the 
little boys pushing their cargoes across the canal. There is some- 
thing more in the City than the getting of money and the 
spending of it; there is even something which escapes the 
denunciations of Blake. 

I wander thro’ each charter’d street. 

Near where the charter’d Thames docs flow, 

And mark in every face I meet 

Marks of weakness, marks of woe. 

Blake is on the right lines, but he goes too far on them. London 
is full of injustice, joylessness and smugness, but there is good 
temper and rebelliousness in her, too. 


350 



LONDON IS A MUDDLE 


Dickens realized this, and so did another great novelist, whose 
name is not quoted in this connection as often as it should be: 
Daniel Defoe. Defoe’s Moll Flanders is the apotheosis of the 
Cockney: not criminal, not law-abiding, not respectable, warm- 
hearted. Next time you go down the little passage which leads 
to St Bartholomew’s, Smithfield, give a thought to Moll Flanders, 
for it was here that she robbed of a gold necklace a little girl who 
was coming back from a dancing-class. She thought of killing 
the little girl, too, but desisted, and, conscious of the risk the 
child had run, she became indignant with the parents for “leaving 
the poor little lamb to come home by itself, and it would teach 
them to take more care of it another time”. Give a thought to 
her when you are stifled with cant, for she is the goods. I used 
to loathe London when I was young. Living an immense dis- 
tance away (to be precise, in Hertfordshire), I used to denounce 
her for her pomp and vanity, and her inhabitants for their un- 
manliness and for their unhealthy skins. Like Blake, I went too 
far. Time has tamed me, and, though it is not practicable to 
love such a place (one could as easily embrace both volumes of 
the Telephone Directory at once), one can love bits of it and 
become interested in the rest. She does not pay for being 
smartened up, and these Coronation arrangements, with their 
false splendour and false orderliness, do her wrong. She can be 
casual and gentle. Leave Regent Street for ever. Walk instead 
through the unsmart squares which lie east of the King’s Cross 
Road — the group which begins with Percy Circus and ends in 
Arnold Bennett’s Riceyman Steps. Or walk as close as you 
dare to the south bank of the river from Blackfriars Bridge to 
Tower Bridge — an excellent expedition, including possibilities 
of trespass and the best available view of St Paul’s. Or go up 
the river to Battersea church, where Blake was married, or down 
it to Rotherhithe church, where Prince Lee Boo lies buried — 
he who once was prince of the Pelew Islands. And then return 
to where you first started from — that is to say, to the City end 
of London Bridge. Lean over the chasm by Adelaide House 
again, and allow a few words of one of our living poets to slide 
through your mind : 

O city city, I can sometimes hear 

Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street, . 

The pleasant whining of a mandoline 

And a clatter and a chatter from within 

Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls 


351 



PLACES 


Of Magnus Martyr hold 

Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold. 

T. S. Eliot has felt and has well expressed the muddle of Lon- 
don — the muddle which need not be unpleasant. 

[1937] 


35a 



The Last of Abinger 


Written in a Surrey not free from worry, these notes are unlikely 
to please the nature-lover. Nor are they documentary enough to 
interest the historian. Most of them come from a commonplace 
book. The date of the final entry (which is partly a dream) is 
Monday, 27 July 1946. 

EVENING WALK round by the yew-wood on the Pilgrims’ Way 
that I have kidded myself into thinking terrifying. It isn’t. The 
junipers looked like men, the yew-roots were silvery in the last 
light, and resembled skeletons or snakes, a ghostly little plant or 
two waved at the entrance of the great warm cave. ... Yet it 
isn’t, it isn’t. And a rabbit moving suddenly in the dark as I 
came down — it isn’t either. The really terrifying things are 
bacteria or the small trefoil that spoils my rockery. I have not 
time to see or feel this. I waddle on under a rucksack of traditional 
nature-emotions, and try to find something important in the 
English countryside — man-made, easily alterable by man. 
George Meredith, my predecessor on these downs, could upset 
himself with a better conscience. 

HONEYSUCKLE BOTTOM. The path is blocked by trees that have 
fallen in the snow. Wild, wild, wilder than the genuine forests 
that survive in the south of Sweden. I excite myself by learning 
the names of the woods on the Ordnance Map, by hearing a 
wryneck, and by seeing a swallow and a bat — all three phenomena 
early. Think I will learn the names of all the fields in the parish. 
Wish I had talked to old men, 

BLIND OAK GATE. The soil of our parish consists of greensand 
and of chalk, and is unpropitious to earthquakes. Since the days 
of King John, who once behaved very badly indeed near Pad- 
dington Farm, tragedy has averted her face. The Tillingbournc 
is too shallow to get drowned in, the banks of the Smugglers’ 
Lane too sloping to be leapt off fatally, and, though there are 


353 



PLACES 


wells, millponds, quarries, a tower upon Leith Hill and several 
high wellingtonias, these may not rank as natural dangers; 
they are artificial death-traps which have been constructed by 
man for his own destruction, often unsuccessfully. Similarly 
with the mechanically propelled vehicles which certainly do 
rush along at lethal speeds; they have always gathered impetus 
outside the parish boundaries, and similarly with the aeroplanes. 
Left to itself, there is not a safer place in England than Abinger. 

Yet, if not a bang, there is a whimper. Here and there, in this 
ten-mile ribbon of fluffy Surrey, comes a rumble of occurrences 
below. One of these rumbles is at Holmbury Camp, where the 
brow of the heathland is furrowed by neolithic frowns. The 
other, better known to me, is at Blind Oak Gate. 

Blind Oak Gate lies at the extreme north. The tracks leading 
up to it from the south climb up the clean chalk of the downs, 
and the sun shines into their ruts. Then begins a brash of bushes 
— hawthorn, sloe, bramble, heightening into holly and ash, and 
the sunlight gets frittered away. The ridge of the downs is 
crossed inadvertently, and after a hundred yards the traveller — 
for he has become a traveller — reaches this queer clearing. It 
slopes and slides, descending to the quarter of the north. It has 
no special shape. Eight or ten paths converge on it — some so 
unobtrusive that they fail to get counted. It is surrounded by 
trees, some of which are big, and many of which are undamaged. 
Tucked away at the top of it is a pond. The pond is small and 
shallow, and pretty ranunculus covers it in June. But what is 
it doing up a hill? Like the paths, it is trying to hide itself. It 
is the centre of the whole affair, if affair there be. When the 
traveller has passed, the pond rises on its elbow and looks around 
it. When he returns, it lies back, and only a dribble through 
silver-weed reveals its dubious bed. 

Many years ago, at Cairo, I encountered as a traveller the 
ruinous Mosque of Amr. The neighbourhood was deserted, the 
sunlight violent. I stood outside the enclosure and peeped. 
There was nothing particular to look at — only old stones — but 
peace and happiness seemed to flow out and fill me. Islam 
means peace. Whatever the creed may have done, the name 
means peace, and its buildings can give a sense of arrival, which 
is unattainable in any Christian church. The tombs at Bidar 
give it, the Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur, the Shalimar Gardens at 
Lahore, the garden-houses at Aurangabad. But it came strongest 
from the Mosque of Amr, and I learned afterwards, with super- 


354 



THE LAST OF ABINOER 


stitious joy, that others besides myself had noticed this; that 
the Mosque had been in early days the resort of the Companions 
of the Prophet; that the sanctity of their lives had perfumed it; 
that the perfume had never faded away. Anyhow, I remember 
the feeling and am grateful for it, and it is the exact opposite 
of the feeling I get at Blind Oak Gate. No peace here. Only 
a sense of something vaguely sinister, which would do harm if 
it could, but which cannot, this being Surrey; of something 
muffled up and recalcitrant; of something which rises upon its 
elbow when no one is present and looks down the converging 
paths. Anyone who knows the novels of Forrest Reid will 
realize what I am trying to say. He, better than any living author, 
can convey this atmosphere of baffled malevolence, this sense of 
trees which are not quite healthy and of water which is not quite 
clear. Yes — something is amiss. Our parish ingredients have 
been wrongly combined for once, and I can’t honestly say I am 
sorry. 

The Blind Oak and the Gate, which lent their names to the 
clearing, are both gone. The oak goodness knows when. The 
gate was pulled up for a lark by a boy who is now a middle-aged 
butcher. He and some other boys set to work and dragged 
it over the crest of the downs to the great chalk-pit on the 
southern slope, where they crashed it. The place, deserted by 
its sponsors, has been left to its very own self, and who knows 
what it is up to during autumn nights? Not I. But I have 
sometimes stood there of a late afternoon, and flirted with the 
shadow of the shadow of evil. When I can go there no longer, 
I shall still remember it: it will remain as a faint blur opposite 
the calm cleansing sunlight of the Mosque of Amr. And when 
its trees arc cut down, and its pond emptied and its levels altered, 
it will not exist anywhere except in my memory. Cursing feebly. 
Blind Oak Gate will have been cleaned up for ever, and I can’t 
honestly say I shall be glad. 

THE OLD CRAB TREE near the second chalk-pit on the downs 
has been blown down this spring, but is flowering as in other 
years. Neither sad nor glad that this should be, yet my heart 
beats to its importance. My head and deepest being said: “We 
approve of your heart — it is important — but why exercise it over 
nonsense? Only those who want, and work for, a civilization 
of grass-grown lanes and fallen crab trees have the right to feel 
them 80 deeply.” Most people who feel as I do take refuge in 


355 



PLAGES 


the “Nature Reserve’* argument, so tastelessly championed by 
H. G. Wells. The moment nature is “reserved” her spirit has 
departed for me, she is an open-air annex of the school, and only 
the semi-educated will be deceived by her. The sort of poetry 
I seek resides in objects Man can't touch — like England’s grass 
network of lanes a hundred years ago, but today he can destroy 
them. The sea is more intractable, but it too passes under human 
sway. Peace has been lost on the earth, and only lives outside 
it, where my imagination has not been trained to follow, and I 
am inclined to agree with Gerald Heard that those who do follow 
will abandon literature, which has committed itself too deeply 
to the worship of vegetation. To substitute the worship of 
motor-pumps is unsatisfactory, because it is mere assertiveness, 
and can never rise out of the advertisement-catalogue atmo- 
sphere. The man who says, “Look what I’m doing!” is merely 
reassuring himself that he has done it. Hence the quantity of 
empty noises in Walt Whitman. 

FALLEN ELMS. Have seen so many of them in the past week 
that I ought to be able to describe them in a few vivid words. 
All the black outer twigs are crashed and stamped into the earth 
and stain it like the ghost of a tree. The wood, where it splits, 
suggests commonness; where it is sawn and shows ruddy — choco- 
late surrounded by white — distinction. Reggie B. showed me the 
sawn top of a great one used as a table; the old fellow what 
walks on two sticks says they were put to many uses when he 
was young, only coffins now. Three fell across the garden, 
seventeen in Hackhurst Lane, one a double elm or cuckold, which 
broke the steps, one of the pair by the drive gate has shown a 
surround of cracks as if it will heel over into the field, one leans 
across the public path into the wood and rests on three ashes. 
The flesh of fallen ashes is beautifully pink here and there where 
sawn, and smells different to the elm’s, though here again I can’t 
describe or even remember the difference. 

CAT IN WOOD washing its face on the grand new oak stump 
with amphitheatre of hollies behind it. After a time turned and 
saw me — cat I knew slightly but not in that place. We stared, 
motionless, but it gradually lowered its head after a bit. I 
guessed what was up — it wouldn’t take its eyes off mine, yet 
wanted to get them down to a place where they couldn’t be on 
them. A frond of fern was enough, and cat bolted. 

356 



THE LAST OF ABINGBR 


SANDY FIELD, bctwccn Dccr Leap and the Railway. Here, 
a few years ago, three black cinerary urns of the first century a.d. 
were found, the most perfect of which was given to the B.M. 
by Mrs E., now herself dead. I saw it there, proffered by a 
polite colonel, and today went to the field. There is a pond, 
large but difficult to find, and no doubt of the Silent Pool type, 
for it lies under the down. This was crammed with carp, and 
when it was cleared out some of them stocked Paddington. 
Ernest R. told me all this. Up in Deer Leap is a tumulus, spiky 
with trees, and the field called Great Slaughter Field is on the 
other side. (Great Sloe Tree Field really.) Peaceful feeling 
after turning out this tiny pocket of history. Pond lies on water- 
shed and drains towards Mole. 

BUNCH OF SENSATIONS. Listening in the late dusk to gramo- 
phone records I did not know; smoking; the quarter-moon 
shone as the light faded, and brought out sections of my books; 
motors coming down the Felday road shone through the window 
and flung the tulip-tree — and pane — shadows on the wallpaper 
near the fireplace. When the music stopped I felt something had 
arrived in the room; the sense of a world that asks to be noticed 
rather than explained was again upon me. 

PADDINGTON. Gently and happily relate the evening. In 
some sort of poetry if it is was mine after the vexatious little 
prosaic day. I go down to Paddington, old Empson fishing there, 
and chub, dace, bream, pike, perch, gudgeon are all mentioned as 
being in the pond. Seldom caught because they find so much in the 
mud, and their fins break the surface like tiny sea-serpents or 
float like sticks. There was a woman once nearly drowned 
bathing — she had been making a film of the Clock House, and 
bathed. The ropes flayed her arms. The fish moved, the trees 
regrouped, the lovely summer night came on. I did not want fun 
or wit or lust, sat on a rail by a young couple and heard old 
Empson talk. Did not want anything else, or think of my ap- 
proaching expulsion from unexplored paradises. One gentle 
fact after another hit me — as that a pigeon’s nest is close. Teeth 
of the pike, dorsal fin of the perch, they hurt, the fin is poison. 
Old Empson and I are old and moderate friends, he regrets I am 
going but did not say, he wanted to talk about fish. The loveliness 
of indifference! The restfulness! The happiness not mystic or 
intense ! Nothing hanging on it — ^Now it is i .o a.m. I lie down on 

357 



PLAGES 


my pond, but first will read what I have written. — Have done 
so. — My hour at Paddington has not come through. I have not 
the vocabulary, my mind is not sufficiently equable. Yet I still 
see the fishes* tails breaking the water and the small white float 
which they never approached. — I am sleepy, I should like the 
kindly meaninglessness in my dreams. I must go to my pond, to 
its depths which arc not deep, only a couple of feet, but out of 
sight. 

[i927?-i946] 


358 



Source and Textual Notes 


A: Two Cheers for Democracy (London, Edward Arnold, 1951). 

B: Two Cheers for Democracy (New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1951). 

C: For every item but three, at least one earlier published version, as 
listed by Miss B. J. Kirkpatrick in A Bibliography of E, M, Forster 
(London, Hart-Da vis; second, revised impression, 1968) and speci- 
fied below under individual titles. 

D: For thirteen items as specified below, at least one typescript (TS) 
or complete or partial manuscript (MS) ; at King’s College, Cam- 
bridge, unless otherwise stated. 

E: Nordic Twilight (London, Macmillan, 1940; see below under “Three 
Anti-Nazi Broadcasts**). 

The text of this volume is, with the exceptions noted below, that of A, 
It has been collated word by word with J?, C and D, and also with the 
1970 reprint of the Penguin Books edition of 1965. The absence from 
this last, however, of any variants other than obvious compositors* 
errors merely confirms the strong probability, in the absence of evidence 
to the contrary, that Forster (who died in June 1970) neither made nor 
authorized any alterations to Two Cheers for Democracy after its simul- 
taneous publication in London and New York on i November 1951. 

There are a number of substantive differences between A and B, 
all of them noted below. In a few places B corrects a manifest error in 
A ; such corrections apart, it is A which represents Forster’s latest wishes. 
This is because, at some stage after Edward Arnold had sent Harcourt, 
Brace the “corrected” galley-proofs from which B was set, Forster made 
further corrections and additions to A (including the insertion of the 
essay on Cavafy) which were cither not transmitted to New York — 
possibly on the mistaken assumption that Forster would be seeing Ameri- 
can proofs also — or received there too late for incorporation in B* 

In the Introduction I have mentioned and illustrated some of the 
ways in which, to a varying extent, Forster revised these essays, talks 
and reviews for publication in volume form. It would be tedious, in a 
volume intended for general use, to list the many minor changes made 
by Forster at successive stages, and a handful only of the more interest- 
ing ones are noted below (italic being used for variant words). In a 
number of cases, however, a variant reading in C, or occasionally Z 7 , 
confirmed my suspicions (or convinced me where I had entertained 


359 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 

none) that the reading given by A (B, etc.) is incorrect. This need sur- 
prise no one who is familiar with the phenomenon known as “proof- 
reader’s illusion ”, or with the tendency of texts to deteriorate progressively 
with resetting. More worthy of remark is the pre-eminent authority 
which, for the reasons given below, I attach to one C item (the Horizon 
version of “The Raison d'£ire of Criticism”) as a whole. 

All substantive departures from then, including one or two emenda- 
tions where even the earliest extant version is, I believe, corrupt, are 
duly noted below. The word “substantive” excludes matters of spelling, 
word division, the use of italic (other than for emphasis), capitaliza- 
tion and punctuation. In 1951 some attempt was made — certainly by 
the publisher of A rather than the author — to impose such uniformity 
in these matters as is desirable; in the Abingcr Edition the attempt has 
merely been more persistent. Also, double quotation marks have been 
adopted for non-fiction as well as fiction, and the terminations “-ize” 
and “-ization”, which are acceptable either side of the Atlantic, substi- 
tuted for the exclusively British forms. Punctuation, of course, is much 
less a matter of obeying rules or of choosing consistently between equally 
valid alternatives, much more an integral part of the writer’s craft. 
Nevertheless, I have ventured here and there — without, I believe, en- 
croaching on the author’s prerogatives of meaning, emphasis and tone — 
to change the punctuation in the interests of consistency or clarity. 
An example occurs in the essay on Gibbon: “He could be affectionate 
and grateful — to Lord Sheffield, to the rather tiresome old aunt who 
had been good to him when he was a boy at Putney — but he never 
developed his emotions.” The structure of that sentence is clear; it is 
obscured, surely, by Forster’s — or a compositor’s — careless use of a 
comma instead of the second dash. Much the same applies to initial 
capitals. Their use in the sentence “Enter the Science of Psychology” 
is clearly deliberate and ironical; but when we find, for example, 
“communist” in one essay and “Communist” in another there are at 
least three simple explanations of the discrepancy which are iar more 
plausible than any hypothetical nuance or change of attitude. 

A problem arises when Forster misquotes from other writers, or 
quotes from a faulty text, or mis-speUs their fictional characters (William 
Banks for Bankes) or pseudonyms (Comberback — in this volume; in 
Abinger Harvest Comberbacke — for Gomberbache).^ Misquotation may, 
of course, be significant, for Freudian reasons such as Forster mistrusted, 
or because its correction would invalidate an argument or destroy a 
rhetorical effect; examples of the latter occur on page 231, line 10 
(D’Annunzio, as reported by Antongini, claimed to be going towards 
Life)^ and on page 247, lines 36-7, where the echo “shining . . . shines” 
would be lost if “shining” was corrected to Virginia Woolf’s “bum- 

^ See ColleeUd Lstters qf Samuel T/^lor Coleridge, ecL £. L. Griggs, voL 1 
(Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1956}, p. 66. 

360 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 


[ii-27] 

ing”. Elsewhere, it seemed more pedantic to preserve such lapses than 
silently to correct them — as Forster would surely have done if, say, it 
had been suggested to him in 1925 (‘see “Anonymity’*) that Blake’s 
poem begins “Whether on Ida’s shady brow” (not “snowy”). 

Here and there, however, what purports to be quotation is actually 
Forsterian paraphrase or even invention; examples are duly noted. 

In the Dedication, B names Roerick (so spelled) first. In the Pre- 
fatory Note, B has, for “may be regarded as a key”, “is, in its way, the 
key”, and, in the fourth paragraph, after the first and last sentences 
respectively, “Each item in it is dated.” and “Lectures reprint com- 
paratively well.” j 5 ’s Acknowledgements name the American pub- 
lishers of Lawrence and Strachey, omit “Harvard”, and refer to “an 
Urdu periodical [or rathei, an oiganization] whose title I have mislaid”. 
Minor corrections to A have here been made. 


THE LAST PARADE 

C: New Writing (editor : John Lehmann), Autumn 1937. An intriguing 
statement, in the first paragraph, that “the body of Mr Justice Avory 
continues to decay” is found only in C; Avory, who died in 1935, was 
perhaps remembered by Forster for his performance while representing 
the Crown against Oscar Wilde in 1896. 

THE MENACE TO FREEDOM 

C: Spectator y 22 November 1935 (one of a scries of nine articles on 
“Aspects of Freedom” by various contributors). 

JEW-CONSCIOUSNESS 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 7 January 1939 (“Comment and Dream: 
Jew- Consciousness ”) . 

OUR DEPUTATION 

C : New Statesman and Nation, 14 January 1939 (“Comment and Dream: 
On a Deputation”). 

RACIAL EXERCISE 

C: Time and Tide, 18 March 1939, in “Notes on the Way” series. 
Instead of “at least eight to one against” (beginning of seventh para- 
graph) B has C’s “eight to one that you cannot”. 

POST-MUNICH 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 10 June 1939 (“The 1939 State”). 

GERALD HEARD 

C: Listener, 14 September 1939 (review of Pain, Sex and Time, headed 
“The Trigger”). 


361 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 


[28-53] 


THEY HOLD THEIR TONGUES 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 30 September 1939. At the end of the 
third paragraph the quotation from Matthew 18:20 (in Forster’s ver- 
sion, “ When two or three*. . .”) has here been corrected each time it 
occurs (as in the preceding essay) : although the phrase has no quotation 
marks when repeated, the repetition needs to be exact. 

THREE ANTI-NAZI BROADCASTS 

Ci: Listener, 26 September (“Two Cultures: The Quick and the 
Dead”), 3 and 10 October 1940. C2: London Calling, 26 September 
(“The Nazis and Culture”), 3 and 10 (“What Would Germany Do to 
Britain If She Won?”) October 1940. E: Forster’s pamphlet Nordic 
Twilight (London, Macmillan, [10 September] 1940); a copy at King’s 
College, Cambridge, is inscribed, in Forster’s hand, “Alternative, and 
perhaps preferable, to this arc three Broadcasts enclosed ” — from which 
it appears that he allowed Edward Arnold, when publishing Two Cheers 
for Democracy, to choose between Ci and the longer E. The latter has 
several readings of which those in A, B and C appear to be corruptions, 
and the following variants from E have been preferred : on page 32, last 
line, “sends, it” to “sends it, it”; on page 37, “Condemning . . . Con- 
demning” to “Concerning . . . Concerning”; on page 38, line 32, 
“banned” to “barred”; on page 39, line 8, “had” to “have had” (C; 
“have, or rather had,”); and, on page 40, line 10, “act” to “art”. 
“Condemning” is confirmed by the source quoted (and cited in E): 
Eva Lips, What Hitler Did to Us (London, Michael Joseph, 1938), page 
82. The “quotations” from Hitler are paraphrases. 

TOLERANCE 

Ci : Listener, 31 July 1941, and Cs: Vital Speeches of the Day, 15 October 
1941, both as “The Unsung Virtue of Tolerance” (Kirkpatrick C369; 
C 437 , “Toward a Definition of Tolerance”, is a different work, as is 
an item not listed in Kirkpatrick, “Tolerance”, Picture Post, 8 July 
1939). In the first sentence of the fourth paragraph, the second dash is 
from C; A and B have a comma. 

RONALD KIDD 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 23 May 1942. 

THE TERCENTENARY OF THE “ AEROPAGITICA” 

C: Listener, 7 December 1944 (“A Tercentenary of Freedom”). 
Forster’s quotations are here particularly erratic {B being worse than 
A), with, in addition, a seemingly random scatter of archaic spellings in 
a largely modernized text. For this edition the text is that of Milton's 
Prose, edited by Malcolm W. Wallace (World’s Classics, Oxford Univer- 
sity Press, reprinted, 1947). On page 51, line 31, B has “The answer” 
instead of A's “He answers” (and C’s “Milton answers”). 

36a 



[54-66] SOURC® AND TEXTUAL NOTES 

THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME 

Ci: Listener, ii April 1946 (“The Challenge of our Time: The 
View of the Creative Artist**; fourth in a series of eleven talks). C2: 
The Challenge of our Time, by Arthur Koestler . . . E. M. Forster [and 
others] (London, Percival Marshall, 1948). At the very end of the 
second paragraph, B omits “, that,**. In the fifth paragraph, “personal 
relationships** is C; -4 and B have the singular. 

GEORGE ORWELL 

C: Listener, 2 November 1950 (review of Shooting an Elephant), 

WHAT I BELIEVE 

Cl : Nation (New York), 16 July 1938 (“Two Cheers for Democracy**; 
first in a series entitled “Living Philosophies**). C2: London Mercury, 
September 1938 (“Credo**). C3: What I Believe (London, Hogarth 
Press, 1939). C4: I Believe, by W. H. Auden . . . E. M. Forster [and 
others] (London, Allen & Unwin, 1940). D: autograph MS fragment 
in an otherwise blank notebook, probably representing a first attempt 
at this essay: “Well, I believe in having different sorts of people, and in 
letting them think and speak & act as they like, so far as that is 
possible. The modern state tends to produce only two sorts, the bosses 
and the bossed, both of them pretty nasty, and n [. . .]** 

In the second sentence, “Age of Faith** is here capitalized for con- 
sistency with the first sentence of the next paragraph; the tone is equally 
ironic. On page 71, the Keatsian “holiness of the Heart*s affections^' 
corrects the “. . . Affection** of A and B — which in turn “corrects** 
the “. . . Imagination** of C1-4, Ci and C4 have this final sentence: 
“Until psychologists and biologists have done much more tinkering 
than seems likely, the individual remains firm and each of us must 
consent to be one, and to make the best of the difficult job.** 

anonymity: an enquiry 

Ci : Atlantic Monthly, November 1925. C2: Calendar of Modem Letters 
(editor: Edgell Rickword), November 1925. C3: Anonymity (London, 
Hogarth Press, [i December] 1925); a copy at King*s College, Cam- 
bridge, served as press copy for A, D: page 2 only of an autograph MS, 
possibly a paper read at the Working Men’s College, 28 February 1924, 
on which the essay was based. 

C2 and C3 differ little from each other, but significantly from C/. 
Many of the variants can only have resulted from authorial revision, 
and Ci (hence its designation as such) is clearly the unrevised version: 
it is scarcely possible, for example, on page 83, line 37, to imagine 
Forster inserting the superfluous “during our reading** before “we are 
always exclaiming*’ — and producing an ugly jingle in the pr6cess. 
Two of the Ci variants, however — in the fourth paragraph, “an old 
gentleman** for “old gentlemen**; in the sixth, “how they illuminate 

363 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES [77l-l8] 

passion!” for “they illuminate passion.” — arc at first sight extremely 
tempting. I have not adopted them, for the following reasons: (a) if 
the Cals readings are compositors’ errors, they arc of a kind (especially 
the second) which it would be hard for even a careless author to overlook 
in proof; (6) we can hardly suppose that two compositors made the same 
two mistakes, and the alternative explanation — that Ca was set from C5 
or vice versa — seems on balance less likely than that they were set from 
different copies of the same TS; (c) since only an editor (or possibly 
printer) with some rigid ideas on grammar can have been responsible 
for C/*s “whom” in the first sentence, it seems not unlikely that the 
same mind boggled at what, on this hypothesis, are two calculated 
irregularities: the elliptical shift from plural to singular, and the avoid- 
ance of an expected rhetorical parallelism. 

On page 78, line 41, “pure information” is C1-3; A and B — but 
not the corrected copy of Cj — have “the pure information”. On page 
82, A (alone) has the comic “Priestley” for “Priestly”. 

ART FOR art’s SAKE 

C: Harper's Magazine^ August 1949, described as a “slightly emended 
version of an address delivered before a combined meeting” of the two 
bodies named on page 87 (incorrectly in A and B)» Closely related is 
“The New Disorder” {jflorizon, December 1941, and elsewhere; Kirk- 
patrick A27, B14, C373). In the third and fourth sentences B follows 
C in reading “Fifty years ago . . . fifty” where A has “Sixty . . . sixty”. 

THE DUTY OF SOCIETY TO THE ARTIST 

C; Listener, 30 April 1942. 

DOES CULTURE MATTER? 

C: Time and Tide, 16 November 1935, in “Notes on the Way” series; 
and (second half) Spectator, 4 October 1940. The Spectator article ends 
with a paragraph which mentions that Forster has been “greatly helped 
this year by reading Locke’s little work on the Understanding, and 
greatly pleased by The Portrait of a Lady", 

THE RAISON d’AtRE OF CRITICISM 

Ct: Harper's Magazine, ]\j\y 1947 (“On Criticism in the Arts, Especi- 
ally Music”). Ca: Horizon, December 1948. C/ states: “This essay 
was delivered as an address at the Harvard Symposium on Music, 
imder the title ‘The Raison d’Etrc of Criticism in the Arts’. It has 
been slightly revised for magazine publication.” The revision was 
probably done by Forster himself, or at least approved by him; and 
there is no evidence to suggest that he reverted to a pre-publication 
version as a basis for either Ca or A (which uses the lecture title cited 
byC/), 

The crucial points in the relationship between Ci, Ca and A are, first, 

364 



[105-18] SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 

that A derives, unmistakably, not from Cs but from the earlier C/; 
and, second, that this cannot be explained by supposing that the variant 
readings in C2 represent the work of the editor of Horizon (Cyril Connolly) 
or a member of his staff which Forster was either unaware of or chose 
to igjnore. One or two of these variants — those of the type represented 
by the change, in the second paragraph, from “my paper” to “my 
survey” — could just be explained in this way (though a footnote, “A 
lecture given in May 1947 at a Symposium of Music at Harvard”, 
seems designed partly to account for such phrases) ; and one omission 
of five or six lines might conceivably have been made in proof for copy- 
fitting purposes. As against these possibilities, however, several changes — 
including additions — could not conceivably have been the work of any- 
one but Forster himself. It is clear, therefore, that the reason why he 
used Ci rather than as a basis for A was simply that he had forgotten 
about C2 or, more probably, had no copy available at the time. 

Moreover, it is clear that Forster exercised much more care and 
concentration over C2 than over A — indeed, it would be surprising if 
in revising some seventy essays for volume publication he never flagged. 
And at one point in the preparation of C2 he noticed and corrected, 
though not quite fully, an error in Ci which destroys the required argu- 
ment; whereas in A, at this point, he merely tied up a comparatively 
insignificant loose end. The passage in question (page 122 in A) reads, 
in Ci (editor’s emphasis of crucial words) : 

For now our trouble starts. We can readily agree that criticism has 
educational and cultural value; the artist helps to civilize the com- 
munity, builds up standards, forms theories, stimulates, dissects, 
encourages the individual to enjoy the world into which he has been 
bom ; and on its destructive side, it exposes fraud and pretentiousness 
and checks conceit. These are substantial achievements. But I 
would like if I could to establish its raison d’etre on a higher basis than 
that of public utility. I would like to discover some spiritual parity 
between it and the objects it criticizes. . . . 

Clearly something has gone wrong here. Not only is there a shift from 
“the artist” to an unrelated “its”; but the thing referred to is evidently 
criticism, and the list of “substantial achievements” corresponds not to 
those of the artist, but to those — detailed in the preceding pages, and 
recapitulated in almost identical terms at the end of both Ci and C2 — 
of the critic (or criticism). The combination of these two flaws, and the 
unlikelihood of the second having resulted from a mere lapsus calami, 
suggests that what Forster actually wrote may have been something 
like (my emphases) : 

. . . We can readily agree that criticism has educational and cultural 
value; it dram attention to the artist, helps to civilize . . . [then as 
before] 


365 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES [ 1 05- 1 8] 

and that the italicized words (or similar ones) were accidentally omitted 
at some stage, and a comma removed to make sense — the wrong sense. 
In C2, however, Forster has restored the correct sense by changing “ art- 
ist** to “critic**, “it exposed ** to “he exposes**, and “its raison d*6tre** to 
“the raison d'itre of criticism**; this is perfectly adequate, except that 
he has forgotten to make the further contingent change of “its destruc- 
tive side** to, say, “the destructive side**. In A, on the other hand, he 
has merely changed “it exposes*’ to “criticism exposes**, thereby 
supplying an antecedent for “its** — but leaving the artist responsible 
for what are actually the “substantial achievements** oi criticism. 

In this passage, clearly, the text of (with the “contingent change** 
mentioned above) must be preferred. Of the remaining variant readings 
peculiar to Cs, several arc indisputably improvements, others more 
questionably so, one apparently a misprint. Except for this last, I 
have incorporated all changes to Ci made in C2, as well as — following 
normal practice, and hence without comment — those made in A. The 
result is in the nature of a conflated text, but the decision — which affects 
the very title — seems justified by the special circumstances. 

The remaining C2IA discrepancies, in summary form, are as follows 
(figures denote page and line) : 


105: 3 criticism / criticism in the arts 

105: 5 it may be remembered in / you will remember in your 
105: 18 agree, I think, / agree 

X06: 39 controversy which not even Professor Saintsbury had read / 
controversy 

106: 41 Except / Except perhaps 

107: 28 raising one / raising it 

108: 25 the Garden [capital added] / his garden 

109: 12 taste / taste, nor perhaps to yours 

109-10 Op. 97! He has turned to gaiety / Op. 97; turning away 
no: 8 our / the 

1 12: 21 act. How / act, and ask you to observe how 
1 12: 28 spoke and then knew /knew 

1 1 3 : 13 valuable. But if / valuable, but what meanwhile has become 
of Monteverdi’s Vespers, or the Great Mosque at Delhi, or the 
Frogs of Aristophanes, or any other work which you happen to 
have in mind? I throw these three objects at you because they 
happen to be in my own mind. I have been hearing the Vespers, 
seeing the Frogs, and thinking about the Delhi Mosque. If 
1 13: 16 a particular work of art / Vespers, Mosque, and Frogs 
1 13: 17 at once, if we are sensitive, / at once 
114: 26 recipient / spectator 
114: 37 that key / the key 
1 15: 23 At / You remember how, at 
1 15: 30 great critic / critic 
1 15: 31 she was an archangel: she / she 
115: 33 she was Mephistopheles : she / she 

366 



[105-61] SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 

1 1 6 : I tentatively / tentatively in the presence of an expert audience 
1 16: 20 It / There must be many artists, musicians and others here, 
and it 

1 1 6 : 21 musicians in their work today / them in their work 
1 1 7 : 38 needs / wants 

1 18: 36 unfavourable; it does not and cannot go to the heart of things 
[tentative editorial emendation of them] / unfavourable 

Finally, the text given here incorporates three editorial emendations 
of what, in view of the hash made elsewhere by C/, are almost certainly 
printing errors: on page 113, line 14, “obtainable” for “attainable”; 
on page 114, line 12, “the nature” for “a nature”; and, on page 117, 
line 27, “what Fate” for “that Fate”. 

THE G MINOR OF THAT LIFE 

C: Abinger Chronicle, June 1941. At the end of the fourth paragraph 
B shares with C an additional sentence; “And Wagner chooses its fellow- 
brilliant, E, for the close of Tristan, where the lovers leave this unreality 
of light for the darkness, and Verdi [C adds: , his inspired follower,] 
chooses E for the end of Otello.^' Forster doubtless deleted this in proof 
on discovering that Tristan ends, not in E, but in B. 

NOT LISTENING TO MUSIC 

Cl : Listener, 19 January 1939 (“How I Listen to Music”; first in a 
series of talks by various speakers). 

NOT LOOKING AT PICTURES 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 15 July 1939 (“Not looking at Art”). 

JOHN SKELTON 

C: none. In view of the footnote on page 135, quotations have not 
been checked. On page 137, bottom, “way” is an emendation of “away”. 

“JULIUS CAESAR” 

Ci : Listener, 7 January 1943 (“Why Julius Caesar Lives”; first in a 
series of talks on set books in the B.A. course in English literature at 
Calcutta University). Cs: Books and Authors (B.B.C. pamphlet, Oxford 
University Press, 1946), pp. 1-5 (“Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar**). In 
the third and last paragraphs, the italic “w” is C2 each time. In the 
last sentence, B follows C*s “our comprehension and enjoyment”. 

THE STRATFORD JUBILEE OF 1 769 

C: Spectator, 23 April 1932. 

GIBBON AND HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Ci: London Calling, 30 July 1942 (“Edward Gibbon, the Historian”; 
“broadcast in the B.B.G.’s North American service”). C2: Talking to 

367 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 

IndiCy by E. M. Forster . . . and others, edited with an Introduction 
by George Orwell (London, Allen & Unwin, 1943), pp. 1 1-16 (“Edward 
Gibbon**). In Forster*s second sentence, the first “he** is in Cr and C2 
only. On page i6o, line 29, “ twenty-three’* is B's correction of “ twenty- 
seven” {A, Ciy Cs ) — an error arising from a wrong date (1760 for 1764) 
in the first sentence of Ci. 

VOLTAIRE AND FREDERICK THE GREAT 

Ci: Listener y 23 January 1941 (“But . . .**). Cs: London Callingy 30 
January 1941 (“When Voltaire Met Frederick the Great**). D: TS 
of talk, B.B.G. Overseas Service, 17 January 1941. The relationship 
between the various versions is not entirely clear, but it is safe to say 
that A (and therefore B) derives from Ci ; that Ci departs from Z) at a 
number of points where C2 does not; and that some of these departures — 
“hostess” for “host was” in the first paragraph, “still more civilized” 
for “much more civilized” in the seventh, “studies art books” for 
“studies and books” in tlie ninth — produce absurdities that are elimin- 
ated in Ay though only in one case by a return to the reading of C2 and 
2 ). It follows that several readings which are common to Ay B and Ci 
but not to C2 and D may represent less obvious errors in Ci ; and at two 
points I have adopted such readings. In the eighth paragraph, *^care 
to keep house” seems more likely to be what Forster wrote than the 
slightly unidiomatic “come . . .” (“come and keep house would be 
more natural); and in the first sentence of the tenth paragraph “The 
visit went wrong shortly'' gives exactly the sense required, which “. . . 
very slowly” docs not. 

On page 163, 25 June 1 750 is the correct date ; all earlier versions have 
13 June 1751. 

GEORGE CRABBE AND PETER GRIMES 

C, D: none. (Broadcast talks on Peter Grimes y 1945, and on Crabbe, 
i960, are quite different.) On page 168, line 12, “and” is an editorial 
interpolation. The following are editorial emendations : page 1 7 1 , line 
23, “invaded** for “invades”; page 172, line i, “even” for “ever”, page 
177, line 35, “mildest” for “wildest”. 

BISHOP JEBB’s book 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 7 December 1940 (“The Blessed Bishop’s 
Book”). The transcriptions have here been corrected. 

HENRY THORNTON 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 1 April 1939. In the second paragraph, 
**an affectionate husband” is B and C; A has “and . . 

WILLIAM ARNOLD 

C: Listener, 12 October 1944 (“An Arnold in India”). In the third 
paragraph, three pairs of quotation marks, probably the misguided 

368 



[ 1 90 - 2 1 1 ] SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 

handiwork of a C editor, have here been removed. Two of the “ quota- 
tions” (“All the talk . . . humbug” and “physical improvement . . . 
order of things”) are in fact paraphrase, while “and it has grieved many 
generous hearts before now to find it so” is not even a paraphrase of Oak- 
field’s sentiments, but Forster’s comment. The quotation with which 
the paragraph ends is genuine enough — but comes from the Dedication, 
so that it is not Oakfield but his creator who “does not shrink” etc. 

“snow” WEDGWOOD 

C: Listener y 13 October 1937 (“More Browning Letters”; review of 
Robert Browning and Julia Wedgwood^ edited by Richard Curie). In the 
last sentence, “and housemaids housemaids” occurs only in A. 

WILLIAM BARNES 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 9 December 1939 (“Homage to William 
Barnes”). 


THREE STORIES BY TOLSTOY 

C: Talking to India, by E. M. Forster . . . and others, edited with an 
Introduction by George Orwell (London, Allen & Unwin, 1943), 
pp. 1 1 7-2 1 (“Tolstoy’s Birthday”). Di: TS (carbon) of talk, B.B.C. 
Eastern Service, 16 September 1942, in series “We Speak to India: 
Some Books”. D2: TS (photocopy) of talk, B.B.C. African Service, 
18 March 1943, in series “Books and People”. A omits some intro- 
ductory remarks on Tolstoy; also — with some loss of point — the end of 
the story of the three hermits. In Di this reads: “The bishop replies: 
‘Your own prayer will reach the Lord. It is not for me to teach you. 
Pray for us sinners.’ The three hermits then turn and walk back to the 
island over the sea.” 

On page 202, line 10, “vivified” is Di; other versions have “alive”. 
The quotation that follows corresponds to no published translation. 

EDWARD CARPENTER 

C: Tribune, 22 September 1944. Di: TS (carbon) of talk, B.B.C. 
Eastern Service, 29 August 1944, in series “We Speak to India: Some 
Books”. D2: TS (photocopy) of “book talk”, B.B.C. Home Service, 
25 September 1944. The D material has been much rearranged in C, 
on which A is based. In the fifth paragraph, “m his autobiography” 
is C; and B have “is . . .”. 

WEBB AND WEBB 

C: none has been traced. D: TS (carbon) of talk, B.B.C. Easlem 
Service, 26 May 1943, in series “We Speak to India: Some Books”; 
with an additional final paragraph, on My Apprenticeship, 

369 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 


[212-29] 


A BOOK THAT INFLUENCED ME 

C: New Statesman and Nation^ 1 5 July 1 944, in scries “ Books in General 
Di: TS (carbon) of talk, B.B.C. Home Service, 17 April 1944, in series 
“Books That Have Influenced Me”. Ds: TS of talk, B.B.C. African 
Service, in similar series. C and Di are longer than A and the extra 
material consisting mainly of a preamble on how the history of literature 
tends to be “influences,''influences all the way”, and (in Di only) a para- 
graph on Butler’s life. The latter includes a quotation from his Note- 
books — “I am the er^fant terrible of literature and art. If I cannot . . . get 
the literary and scientific bigwigs to give me a shilling, I can . . . heave 
bricks into the middle of them ” — whose omission leaves in some obscurity 
the reference to heaving a brick on page 2 1 3 , last line. 

In the first paragraph, “to make us feel small in the right way” 
was, in C, Di and Z)2, not merely “a function” but ^*the chief function 
of art”. On page 214, the remark attributed to Mr Nosnibor’s daughter 
is a figment. On the same page, the plural (and correct) “ Colleges of 
Unreason” is found only in Di and D2» 

OUR SECOND GREATEST NOVEL ? 

C: Listener y 15 April 1943 (“The Second Greatest Novel?”; talk, 
B.B.C. Indian Service). In the fifth paragraph, the remark attributed to 
Swann is Forster’s paraphrase. In the penultimate paragraph, “distort” 
is an editorial emendation of “distorted”. 

OIDE AND GEORGE 

C: Listener y 26 August 1943 (“Humanist and Authoritarian”). 
D: TS (carbon), with autograph corrections, of talk, B.B.C. Eastern 
Service, 15 August 1943, in series “We Speak to India: Some Books”. 
The autograph MS (see Kirkpatrick C382) in the Academic Center, 
University of Texas, is a different work. Many of the corrections to D 
were clearly intended for microphone delivery only, and have not been 
incorporated in C or 

In the third line, “reactions” is an editorial emendation (cf. the final 
sentence) of . 4 ’s and 5 ’s “reaction”. In the final paragraph, A and B 
read: “I have not interpreted either Gide or George to you . . .”; Forster 
has removed many other references to his audience, and the survival 
of this one was surely inadvertent. (See also the Introduction.) 

Oms’s DEATH 

C: Listener y i March 1951 (letter, headed “Andr^ Gide: a Personal 
Tribute”). 

ROMAIN ROLLAND AND THE HERO 

C; Listener y 8 March 1945. D: autograph MS headed, in an unidenti- 
fied hand, “Commissioned by John Morris for transmission to India”. 
D omits the penultimate paragraph and more, adding instead three 

370 



[226-65] SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 

paragraphs on Rolland’s interest in India, and in particular his book 
on Gandhi. On page 228, line 34, “a fear of death** is C and Z); A and 
B omit the article. 

A WHIFF OF D*ANNUNZIO 

C: spectator, 22 April 1938 (“A Mediterranean Problem**; review of 
D^Annunzio by Tom Antongini). In the second paragraph, for “1914- 
1918 war** B has C*s “l2ist war-period**. In the penultimate paragraph, 
the speech attributed to D*Annunzio is Forster*s paraphrase. 

THE COMPLETE POEMS OF C. P. CAVAFY 

C: Listener, 5 July 1951 (“In the Rue Lepsius**). Omitted from B. 

VIRGINIA WOOLF 

Cl : Virginia Woolf (Cambridge University Press, [May] 1942); there 
is a dedication to Leonard Woolf and a note: “This, with a few addi- 
tions, is the text of the Rede Lecture which was delivered in the Senate 
House, Cambridge, on May 29, 1941. The lecture was also given, in a 
somewhat different form, at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 
March 5, 1942.** C2: Atlantic Monthly, September 1942 (“The Art of 
Virginia Woolf**). C3: Virginia Woolf (New York, Harcourt, Brace, 
[September] 1942). C4: Wine and Food, Spring 1943 (extract, headed 
“Virginia Woolf’s ‘Enlightened Greediness***). D: autograph MS, 
heavily corrected. 

In the first paragraph, D has between the flagstones**, and the 
“through . . .** of all published versions perhaps represents a typist’s 
error — there is another “through” a few words earlier — rather than a 
deliberate conceit. On page 240, line 40, before “Her pen . . D 
has: “It was important to be mischievous: it might even be important 
to get bored, for the sense of boredom can warn one of the approaching 
abyss, and stop one from crashing. ” 

TWO BOOKS BY T. S. ELIOT 

C: Listener, 20 January 1949 (“The Three T. S. Eliots”) and 23 March 
1950 (“Mr Eliot’s ‘Comedy’”). 

“the ASCENT OF f6” 

C: Listener, 14 October 1936 (“Chormopuloda”; review of the pub- 
lished play). On page 258, line 27, “finale” is an emendation of “final”. 

“the ENCHAFiD FLOOD** 

C; Listener, 26 April 1951 (“The Unbuilt City**; review of Auden*s 
book). 

FORREST REID 

C: Listener, 16 January 1947. 


371 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES [266-302] 

ENGLISH PROSE BETWEEN I918 AND 1 939 

C: The Development of English Prose between igi8 and igjg: The fifth 
W, P. Ker Memorial Lecture . . . 27th April ig44 (Glasgow, Jackson, 1945). 
On page 267, line 26, “relationships” is C; ^4 and B have the singular. 
On page 270, line 15, “them” is an editorial emendation of “these”, 
as, in the same paragraph, is “influence” of “influences”. On page 
271, line 1 1, C has: “Still they do it. Under the lash of Mr A, P. Herbert 
they do it.** On page 274, line 41,-6 has “infidelity” for “in fidelity”. 

AN OUTSIDER ON POETRY 

C: Listener y 28 April 1949 (review of Poetry of the Present, edited by 
Geoffrey Grigson). In the sentence before the Scovell quotation, B 
has “the poem which I most admired” (C; “one poem which I much 
admired ”) ; in the one after it, B follows C*s “And then, other poems . . .”. 
In the final sentence B omits “to explain” (C has “just”). 

MOHAMMED IQBAL 

C: Listener, 23 May 1946 (“A Great Indian Poet- Philosopher” ) . 
D: TS (carbon) of “book talk”, B.B.C. Home Service, 8 May 1946, 
Between the second and third quotations, “the white man** is Z); - 4 , 
B and C all have “. . . men”. 

SYED ROSS MASOOD 

C; Urdu, October 1937, with an accompanying letter to the Editor. 

A DUKE REMEMBERS 

C: Listener, 8 December 1937 (“Ducal Reminiscences”; review of 
Men, Women and Things, by the Duke of Portland). In the final sentence, 
where A has “if it is ever afraid”, B follows C’s ^^when it is afraid”. 

“MRS miniver” 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 4 November 1939 (“The Top Drawer 
but One”; review of Jan Struther’s book). In the third sentence, B 
has “stock” for “stick”. 

IN MY UBRARY 

Cl : London Calling, 26 May 1949 (“Bookshelves of a Lover of Words” ; 
third, following Desmond MacCarthy and Harold Nicolson, in a scries of 
talks entitled “In My Library”). C2: Listener, 7 July 1949. C3: New 
York Times Book Review, ii September 1949 (“On the Meaning of a 
Man’s Books”). 

THE LONDON LIBRARY 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 10 May 1941 (“The Centenary of the 
London Library”). 


37a 



[303-52] SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES 

A LETTER TO MADAN BLANCHARD 

C: A letter to Madan Blanchard (London, Hogarth Press, 1931). Some 
of the passages in quotation marks arc from the books by Keate and 
Hockin which Forster cites; some are an amalgam of Kcatc and Forster; 
one (page 307: “I go with his people . . .”) seems to be pure Forster. 

In the fourth paragraph, D follows C in locating Pelew at “latitude 
16' 2^" N., latitude 126 E.” Evidently Forster became aware at a late 
stage that this was incorrect; the latitude he had doubtless taken from 
Keate, page 7 (without noticing that the shipwreck, though only three 
pages ahead, was still nine days away), while “126“ is probably an 
error for “136“ as taken from Kcatc ’s map. On page 31 1, line 21, 
“ up on ” is an editorial emendation of “ upon On page 3 1 2, lines 30- 
31, “the City,” is an editorial interpolation; without some such inter- 
polation the passage makes little sense. 

INDIA AGAIN 

C: Listener, 31 January and 7 February 1946 (“India after Twenty- 
Five Years”). 

LUNCHEON AT PREIORIA 

C: Abinger Chronicle, January 1940. In the penultimate paragraph, 
“sense of values'^ is C; A and B have the singular. 

THE UNITED STATES 

C: Listener, 4 September 1947 (“Impressions of the United States”). 
In the third paragraph, “under spreading” is an editorial emendation 
of “ underspreading 

MOUNT LEBANON 

C; Listener, 24 May 1951. 

FERNEY 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 2 November 1940 (“Happy Ending”). 
CLOUDS HILL 

C: Listener, i September 1938. D: TS (photocopy) of talk, B.B.G. 
Regional and Western Programmes, 15 April 1939, in series “The 
House and the Man”. In the fifth paragraph, where A has “on a 
gateway”, B follows C’s “upon a mosque”. 

CAMBRIDGE 

C: New Statesman and Nation, 29 March 1941 (review of John Steeg- 
man’s book). 

LONDON IS A MUDDLE 

C; Reynolds News, 9 May 1937 (“City of Odd Surprises”). On page 
351, line 13, C has “stifled with Coronation cant”. 


373 



SOURCE AND TEXTUAL NOTES [353“^] 

THE LAST OF ABINOER 

C: Abinger Chronicle, September 1944 (“Abinger Notes”) and June 
1940 (“Blind Oak Gate”; a longer version). D: the commonplace 
book mentioned in the ♦introductory paragraph and described in 
“Bishop jebb’s Book”; it has been edited for publication by Forster, 
with omissions and concealment of names — though at least two changes, 
noted below, almost certainly represent mere errors of deciphering or 
transcription. C lacks “Paddington”, D “Blind Oak Gate”. 

The second half of the introductory paragraph shows successive stages 
of revision : 

C: They come unaltered from a common-place book which I have 
had by me for the last twenty years, and local readers may perhaps 
care to re-write them mentally. 

B : Most of them come from a common-place book which I have had 
by me for many years. (Final entry, July 27th, 1946.) 

A: Most of them come from a common-place book. The date of 
the final entry (which is partly a dream) is Monday, July 27th, 
1946. 

In “Honeysuckle Bottom”, “three phenomena” is /); Forster appears 
to have misread his own writing to produce “these pleasures” {A, B 
and C). In the third paragraph of “Blind Oak Gate”, “covers” is an 
editorial emendation of “cover”, as is “up a hill” of “up hill”. 

In “Fallen Elms”, the semi-colon (replacing a comma) after “com- 
monness” represents an editorial attempt to clarify a sentence-structure 
that has caused trouble : in place of D*s pair of dashes, C has a hyphen 
and a dash, B a pair of hyphens, A a hyphen and a comma. In the last 
sentence, “elm’s” is D; A, B and C have “elms”. 

“Gat in Wood” has two extra final sentences in D: “Mem: do not 
want to stroke cat’s genitals. Didn’t know anyone did until last week.” 
Similarly, in D, “Bunch of Sensations” ends: “. . . upon me, my rest- 
less and feeble brain was at peace for a tick or two. Then it started 
again, with lust and the sense of humour, its faithful companions.” 

In “Paddington”, the words “lie down on my pond, but first” and 
the two final sentences are missing from B; Forster’s restoration in proof 
of the unabridged entry is presumably related to the simultaneous 
insertion (see above) of “ (which is partly a dream) ”. 


374 



Annotated Index 


This index — like those in other non-fiction volumes of the Abinger 
Edition — is intended to serve three purposes: 

(1) The tracing of any given passage or obiter dictum^ however im- 
perfectly remembered ; to the extent that many passages and sayings are 
liable to be remembered by a particular word rather than by the under- 
lying idea, the index partakes also of the nature of a concordance. 
Thus, the reader who recalls, and wishes to trace, the passage with the 
striking image of a writer dipping a bucket into his lower personality 
will find it indexed under both “buckets’* and “personality: two levels 
of’*. If, on the other hand, what comes to mind is the idea of the part 
played by the subconscious (or unconscious) in artistic creation, it will be 
equally possible to identify the passage via any of the italicized words. 

(2) The pinpointing of what Forster has said on any given topic, 
be this a person, a place, an event, or a concept such as culture or 
freedom or love or science. In the case of writers, quotations from their 
works (whether acknowledged as such or otherwise) are, where identi- 
fied, indexed under their names, since the frequency with which one 
writer quotes another is not without interest. In the case of concepts, 
Forster’s own words have been used wherever possible, without inverted 
commas, and with cross-references between related headings. 

(3) The provision, in an unobtrusive yet accessible form, of brief 
ejcpository notes. In writing these I have tried to avoid the irrelevant and 
the obvious — while remembering that some readers are younger, or 
more curious, or less knowledgeable, than others. To take two examples 
from the opening essay. Sir Malcolm Campbell, once a household name, 
may well be an unfamiliar one to many people today (and especially to 
those who feel about speed as Forster did) ; in the index they will find an 
explanation both of who he was and of why, in the autumn of 1937, 
Forster singled him out for ironic reference. Later in the essay is a para- 
graph on “Satan”. Those who remember, or have read about, the 
I talo- Abyssinian war of 1935-6 will at once identify this figure as Benito 
Mussolini. For others the identification may be less easy; if they turn to 
“Satan” in the index, however, they will be referred to Mussolini, 
where those who arc still puzzled by “He sprays savages with scent” 
will find an explanation. In much the same way, a number of quotations 
or near-quotations for which Forster has given no source arc indexed 
under one or more key words (c.g. “stone-dead”) as well as under 


375 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


authors. (This has not, however, been done with the numerous Biblical 
phrases, which arc almost certain to be recognized as such, and are 
merely listed under Bible.) 

This third function is not one commonly performed by an index, but 
the incorporation, in this one, of all expository notes seems to offer some 
advantages. While footnotes arc unsightly and irritating to those who 
do not need them (the few in this volume are Forster’s own), occasional 
reference to terminal notes, however well-signposted, is likely to be more 
laborious than such reference to an alphabetical index. In reality, 
however, readers of books with terminal notes tend to insert a thumb or 
forefinger in the end-pages, and (whether the notes are flagged in the 
text or not) to keep flicking the pages anxiously backwards and forwards 
lest they miss some gem. Forster deserves a better fate than to be read 
in such a way; and I hope that nobody will turn to this gcmless index 
who is not conscious of a genuine and specific need to do so. 

Subheadings arc arranged in order of fii*st page reference, unless some 
other arrangement — alphabetical, chronological or thematic — seemed 
likely to be more helpful; Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, are given in 
alphabetical order. Famous books, plays etc. are normally entered 
only under their authors. 

Unless otherwise stated, parenthetic dates after names refer to life- 
spans, not to reigns etc. A distinction is made between, for example, 
“(A. 1800)” (implying failure to discover the date of death) and 
“(1900- )” (implying that the person in question was believed to be 
alive at the moment of going to press. 

Forster is abbreviated to F. throughout. 

OLIVER STALLYBRASS 


Abba Thulle, King of Coorooraa, 
306-1 1 passim 

“Abide with me” (H. F. Lytc), 90 
Abinger, Surrey, 353-8 
achievement, varieties of, 70 
Ackerley, J. R. (1896-1967), viii. 
See also Paris 

Acton, Lord (1834-1902), 254 
address, forms of, 270 
aeroplanes, 10, 25, 69, 72; and 
two or three gathered together, 

29 

aesthetic stock exchange, the, 105 
affection: Lytton Strachey’s be- 
lief in, 275; the only thing that 
cuts ice in India, 323. See also 
friendship; love 


“affections, the holiness of the 
Heart’s” (Keats, g.r.), 71 
Ahmedabad, 316 
air-raids, see Second World War 
Ajanta, 96, 321 

albatross : sportsman, naturalist 
and, 81 

Aldeburgh, Suffolk (where the 
sea’s “implacable advance” has 
been arrested, since the 1953 
floods, by the construction of a 
concrete and steel piled sea 
wall, complemented by groynes 
and beach nourishment), 166- 
1 70, 180; F.’s lectures at Festival, 
J33~49» 166-80 
Alexandria, Egypt, 233, 235 


376 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Aligarh, 285, 286 
Allott, Kenneth (1912- ): quo- 
ted, 279 

America, 327-34; is mongrel for 
ever, 1 8 ; source of speak- 
easies, 270; London Library 
and, 302. See also Middle West 
American Academy: F. addresses, 

87-93 

Americans, 328-30 ; lively if back- 
ward, 288; their dream, 333, 
334; have Carolina, 345, 409 
anger : correlated with hope, 5 
Anglo-Saxon words: William 
Barnes’s use of, 198 
Anna Comnena (1083-1148; 
turned to the writing of history 
after failure of intrigues against 
her brother, John II Com- 
nenus), 235 

anonymity (F.’s obiter dicta on 
which were described as “de- 
lightful” by Robert Bridges in a 
letter to F., 4 December 1925), 
77-86 

Antigone (Sophocles), 29, 90, 215 
antisemitism, 12-14; German, 36- 
37, 45 ; in story about “ Skittles ”, 
288. See also racial prejudice; 
racial purity 

Antongini, Tom: D'Annunzio, 230- 
232 

Antony (Marcus Antonius, c, 
83-30 B.C.): allusion to Plutarch’s 
story of music and revelry being 
heard leaving Alexandria dur- 
ing night before his death, 235 
Aristides (Athenian leader dur- 
ing Persian Wars), 237 
aristocracy: F.’s, 70-2; in modern 
Greece?, 237; transference of 
power from, 267; aristocratic 
good manners, 274; Duke of 
Portland a representative of, 
288-90; strangled in nineteenth 
century, 292 


Aristophanes (r. 450-385 B.c.) : 

Frogs, 366; Lysistrata, 249 
Aristotle (384-322 b.c.), 106 
Arizona, 327, 326 
Arne, Thomas (1710-78): Judith, 

155 

Arnold, family : characterized, 
191, 192 

Arnold, Matthew (1822-88): 
“The Progress of Poesy”, 106; 
“Southern Night” quoted, 193 
Arnold, Thomas (of Rugby; 1795- 
1842): edition of Thucydides, 

295 

Arnold, William (1828-59), 190-4 
art: Nazi and Soviet attitudes to, 
5-6; advantage of spending on, 
24; Hitler on, 36; for art’s sake 
(being a self-contained har- 
mony), 57-8, 87-93, 320; its 
privilege to exaggerate, 68; 
merely one of the things that 
matter, 87, 90; purpose and 
nature of, 95-8, 212; infectious 
nature of, 1 1 3-1 1 4 ; eternal fresh- 
ness of, 1 14; alone makes mean- 
ing out of life, 216; Proust’s 
service to, 217; based on an 
integrity deeper than moral 
integrity, 219; palace of, a pit- 
fall, 240-1; and the pleasure 
of inhabiting two worlds at once, 
243; most honoured in France, 
286. See also culture; literature; 
music; pictures 

artist, the: his need for freedom, 
57> 96-7; his fin-de-sikle 
trappings, 87, 91 ; as bohemian, 
90-1, 98; his unique value, 91- 
92; duty of society to, 94-8; 
ought perhaps to be alone, 117; 
comprehensible to the modern 
mind, 185; his recklessness over 
money, 285. See also writer, the; 
and individual names 
arts, the: criticism’s role in, 105- 


377 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


1 18; to be enriched by taking in 
each other’s washing, 123 
Aiceni of F 6 , The (Auden and 
Ishcrwood; F.’s review^ is of the 
first edition, which appeared 
before the play — and notably 
the ending — was revised during 
production), 257-9 
asceticism: deprecated, 70-1, 215 
Asoka (273-232 B.C.), 46 
astronomy: order has vanished in, 
d9» 92. See also stars 
Athens, ancient, 88, go 
atmosphere: contrasted with in- 
formation, 77“8 i 
atonement, doctrine of, 255 
Auden, W. H. (1907- ), 248; 
“We must love one another, or 
die** (from “September i, 
J 939 **> Another Time, 1940; 
the stanza in which it occurs 
was later rejected by Auden), 44 
(possible allusion), 261; wide 
influence of, 279, 320; The 
Enchafkd Flood, 260-2. See also 
Ascent of F 6 ; Dog beneath the Skin ; 
Jacopone da Todi 
Augustine, St ( 354 - 43 o) ’• 

God, 272; Confessions influenced 
F. negatively, 215 
Aurangabad, 354 
Austen, Jane (1775-1817), 264, 
266, 272, 296; Emma, in, 245; 
Northanger Abbey, 79 
authoritarianism: as reaction to 
European tragedy, 222; con- 
trasted with humanism, 222, 
223, 225 

average man, see common man 
Avory, Sir Horace (1851-1935), 

361 

Axis powers, see Nazis 

Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685- 
1750), 105, 247; Brandenburg 

378 


Concertos, 99; Goldberg Varia- 
tions, 124 

backward races: arc kicking — 
more power to their boots, 55 
bacteria: the really terrifying 
things, 353 

Baden-Powell, ist Baron (founder 
of Boy Scout and Girl Guide 
movements; 1857-1941), 3 
Balham and Ealing, quickest 
route between, 103, 104 
ballads: shortage of information 
in, 79; anonymity of, 81. See 
also Coleridge; “Sir Patrick 
Spens** 

Bancroft Gardens, Stratford-on- 
Avon, 155 

bankers: scase of values of, 326 
banking, see commercialism ; 
money 

Banks, Sir Joseph (1743-1820), 
168 

Barnes, William (1801-86), 197- 
200; biography by his daughter, 
see Baxter, Lucy 
Barrow, Isaac (1630-77), 295 
Bartels, Adolf (1862-1945): 
Geschichte der Deutschen Literatur 
quoted (apparently from an 
edition published in the 1930s, 
though “soul-devastating, soul- 
poison i ng ’ * — Seelenvenvuster und 
•vergifter — goes back to the first 
edition, 1901), 37 
Basic English, 271 
Bath, 344 

Battersea Rise, 185-7 
Baudelaire, Charles (1821-67): 

“Les Phares’* quoted, 90 
Baxter, Lucy E., William Barnes’s 
daughter (“ Leader Scott ’ ’ ; 
1837-1902): Life of William 
quoted, 197, 199, 200 
Beachcomber (J. B. Morton; 
1893- ) • on Wagner and Puc- 
cini, 1 10 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Beatrice, see Dante 
Beaumont, Francis (i585?~i6i6) 
and Fletcher, John (1579-1625), 

beauty: in hterature, 83 
Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770- 
1827), 1 1 7, 124-5, 228; use of 
G minor (e.g. in finale of Op. 2, 
No. 1, and in “the movement 
from the third Rasumovsky 
quartet’* — a mistake, as E. H. 
W. Meyerstcin pointed out in a 
letter to Forster, 30 November 
1944; possibly the scherzo of 
the Harp quartet is intended), 
1 20-1, 124-5; Seventh Sym- 
phony, 123; Ninth Symphony, 
114-15; Coriolanus Overture, 
124; Fourth Piano Concerto, 
123; Appassionata Sonata, 123; 
Piano Sonata, Op. iii, 124; 
ELreutzer Sonata, 123; Septet, 
Op. 20 (Whitman on), 108 
belching: confined to Tribes with- 
out the Law, 325 
Belfast, 263, 265 

belief; F.’s disbelief in, 65. See 
also faith 

Belloc, Hilaire (1870-1953), 276; 
allusion to Cautionary Tales, 
with implied charge of anti- 
semitism, 14 

beloved Republic, the, see love 
Bengal, 320, 322 

Bennett, Arnold (1867-1931), 238, 
276, 351; The Old Wives' Tale, 

245 

Berkshires, the, 327-8, 330-1 
Berlioz, Hector (1803-69), 228 
Bernal, J. D. (1901-71), 54 
best-sellers, 100, loi 
Betjeman, Sir John (1906- ): 
quoted, 280 

Bewick, Thomas (1753-1828), 296 
Bible, the (Authorized Version), 
186; Genesis, 82; waning in- 


fluence of, 271-2; quotations 
from and allusions to : 2 Chron- 
icles (3:1), 65; Psalms (121:1), 
171; (127:1), 43, 46; (the same, 
in Prayer Book Version), 269; 
Isaiah (40:6), 247; Malachi 
(2:10), 14; Ecclesiasticus 

(44:14), 257; Matthew ( 4 :i 9 )> 
225; (5:16), 104; (13:46), 86; 
(18:20), 26, 29, 362; (24:38), 
86; (25:21, quoted by Oliver 
Stanley), 272; Mark (9:24), 
65; John (1:1), 29; (1:5), 29, 
66; (1:9), 29; (14:2), 45, 80 
Bickerstaffe, Isaac {d, 1812?): 

Judith, 155 
Bidar, 354 
Bijapur, 354 

Biographic Universelle, 296 
biologists, 363 
birth-control, 56, 345 
Bizet, Georges (1838-75): Carmen, 
177 

Blake, William (1757-1827), 206, 
271; preferred to St Augustine, 
215; epitaph quoted, 28; “Lon- 
don” quoted, 350; “To the 
Muses” misquoted, 79, 361 
Blanchard, Madan {c. 1763-90), 
305-14. See also Keate 
Blind Oak Gate, 353-5 
Bloomsbury, 238, 251, 263 
Blythburgh Church, Suffolk, 133 
body, the: planning for, needed, 
56, 58; danger of thwarting, 
70-1 ; treatment of, by novelists, 
241. See also 
Bombay, 316, 321 
bombers, see aeroplanes 
book-burning of 13 May 1933, 

36-7 

book-collecting: denigrated, 296- 
297» 298 

Book of the Dead, 30 • 

bookplate: F.’s lack of a (1949; 
he later acquired one), 297 


N 379 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


books: that do and do not in- 
fluence, 212, 214-15; owned by 
F., 295-8; uncut, as inspiriting 
as a corked-up bottle *of wine, 
297; lent and borrowed by F., 
297; Carlyle on, 301 
Booth, Charles (1840-1916), 208 
Bosch, Hieronymus {c, 1450- 

1516), 127 

Boswell, James (1740-95): at 
Stratford as “Corsica Boswell*’ 
(his Journal of a Tour to Corsica 
having been published in 1768), 
I 55 » 156 

bottlenecks: a vicious circle of, 61 
Bowen, Elizabeth (1899- ), 269 
Brahms, Johannes (1833-97), 228, 
229; Fourth Symphony, 113, 
124; Violin Concerto, 123 
bravery, see courage 
breathlessness, inspired, 242 
Bridges, Robert ( 1 844- 1 930) : 

“Poor Poll” quoted, 54 
British Broadcasting Corporation: 
and Sedition Bill, 47; and Will 
Hay fade-out incident (2 
November 1935), 100. See also 
broadcasting 

British Empire: Nazis and, 38; 

London as centre of, 348, 349 
British Museum Reading Room, 
248, 300 

Britten, Benjamin (1913- ): 

Peter Grimes^ 177-80 
broadcasting (radio; wireless), 10, 
94 > 99; censorship in, 52; big 
opportunity of, 107; religious, 
187; influence of, on prose 
style, 270. See also British 
Broadcasting Corporation 
Bronte, Emily (1818-48), 79, 268 
Brown, Tom (fisherman), 170, 180 
Browning, Oscar (historian, des- 
cribed in Goldsworthy Lowes 
Dickinson as “finend and enemy 
to so many generations of 


Kingsmen”; 1837-1923): presi- 
dential address to Education 
Section at Birmingham Social 
Science Congress, 1884 (quoted 
from H. E. Wortham’s bio- 
graphy, as recorded in F.’s 
commonplace book, g.i;., in 

>927), 347 

Browning, Robert (1812-89): and 
“Snow” Wedgwood, 195-6 
brutality: and ideals, 247 
buckets: and the lower personality 
(or subconscious), 83, iii, 117 
Bumble, Mr (state official), 95-8 
Bunyan, John (1628-88), 271 
bureaucracy : Milk Marketing 
Board as symbol of, 1 1 
bureaucrat, the: growing power 
of, 267; his aversion to clarity, 
271 

Burke, Edmund (1729-97), 167 
Burns, Robert (1759-96), 198 
business relationships: and per- 
sonal ones, 66 

businessmen : anxieties of, 348 
“but” : F.’s use of, 1 18; Voltaire’s, 
164 

Butler, Samuel (1835-1902) : views 
summarized, 214; Erewhon 
(chapter 22), 118; its influence 
on F., 212-15; The Way of All 
Fleshy 79, 268 

Byron, Lord (1788-1824): and 
D’Annunzio, 230; “So, we’ll go 
no more a roving”, 79 
Byzantium : a secular achieve- 
ment, 237 

C minor, see Beethoven; music 
Cable and Wireless: not to be 
congratulated in the words of 
St Matthew, 271-2 
caddishness: freakish and irmate, 
230 

Caesar, Julius (100-44 ®‘C.) : mur- 
der of, 66; Shakespeare’s play, 


380 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


234; Cavafy on, 234 
Cairo : Mosque of Amr, 354-5 
Calas family (victims of Catholic 
bigotry, on whose behalf Vol- 
taire conducted a long and 
finally successful campaign), 337 
Calcutta, 316, 322 
Cambridge University, 321, 343- 
347; Gibbon and, 159-60; satir- 
ized by Samuel Butler, 214; 
Virginia Woolf and, 239, 246, 
247, 249. See also Rede Lecture 
Campbell, Sir Malcolm (1885- 
1 948 ; holder of various land and 
water speed records, including 
one established on Lake Mag- 
giore on 2 September 1937 
which, with the attendant bally- 
hoo, doubtless earned him this 
ironic reference), 3 
Capek, Karel (1890--1938), 38 
capitalism; and religion, 213. 

See also commercialism; money 
capitalists : the grand Nordic argu- 
ment about, 13 
Carlyle, Jane (1801-66), 292 
Carlyle, Thomas (1795-1881), 
158, 274, 276; Nazi Germany 
and, 40; On Heroes and Hero- 
Worship influenced F. nega- 
tively, 215; Carlyle and the 
London Library (quotations are 
from book of that title, cd. 
Frederic Harrison), 300-1 
Carol II, King of Romania 
(1893-1953), la 
Carolina, see 409 
Carpenter, Edward (who enabled 
F. to write Maurice; 1844-1929), 
205-7 

Casaubon, Dorothea {Middle- 
march) ^ 245 

Casey, Mrs Maie (afterwards 
Lady), 322 

catastrophe, impending, 21 


cats: subtler than dogs, 28; For- 
rest Reid and, 263, 265; F. 
encounters one, 356, 374 
causes: F.’s distrust of, 65-6; 
Virginia Woolf’s indifference to, 
240. See also ideals 
Cavafy, C. P. (1863-1933), 233-7 
censorship: effects of, 32-3; in 
Nazi Germany, 36-7; in war- 
time Britain, 38, 52-3; in occu- 
pied Czechoslovakia, 38; in a 
defeated Britain, 39-41 ; Milton 
and, 50-3. See also freedom 
Cervantes, Miguel dc (1547- 
1616): Don Quixote, 261, 262 
Vest le meilleur tSmoignage, see 
Baudelaire 

Cezanne, Paul (1839-1906); a 
typical reaction to, 100 
Chaikovsky, see Tchaikovsky 
challenge of our time, the, 54-8 
Chamberlain, Neville (1869- 
1940), 22 

Change of Heart; advocated by 
Gerald Heard, 25; and from a 
thousand pulpits, 89; but un- 
likely to occur, 69, 72 
Change of Plan: subject of entry 
in commonplace book, 184 
chaos, the contemporary, 66, 89 
character : better than book-learn- 
ing, 35; in Nazi propaganda, 
35 > 37 

charity: cannot purge the soul, 
187-8; Beatrice Webb on, 209; 
replaced by insurance, 268. 
See also philanthropy 
Chaucer, Geoffrey (r. 1340-1400), 

137. >48 

Chekhov, Anton (1860-1904): on 
criticism (variation of version 
recorded by Gorky: Chekhov’s 
Note-Books, 1921, p. 102), no 
Chesterton, G. K. (1874-1936), 
276 

chicken fricassee, see fricassee 


381 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


chicken-run: building of, during 
Munich crisis, 22 
childhood unhappiness: dangerous 
effects of, 163 * 

China, 08 , 329 
Chinese Civil Service, 71 
Chopin, Fr^ddric (1810-49), 105 
Christ: Shakers and, 334; an 
Indian inscription about, 341 
Christianity and Christian chur- 
ches, 44, 56, 71; failure of, 69, 
72; in India, William Arnold 
on, 191; satirized in Erewhon 
(which much influenced F.), 
213; T. S. Eliot and, 254, 255. 
See also clergymen; Evangel- 
ism; Quakers; Shakers 
churches, Christian, see Christian- 
ity 

Churchill, Winston (1874-1965), 
59 » 270, 329 

cinema, the, 99; in India, 320-1 
city, the unbuilt, 260, 262 
civilization: in danger, 21, 23, 
266; the ** other things’* which 
constitute, 23; in various coun- 
tries in 1 930s, 33; tolerance as 
basis for rebuilding, 43-6; de- 
fined as absences of force, 68; 
undesirable influence of news- 
papers on, 86; apparently col- 
lapsing, 157; Tolstoy’s critique 
of, 203-4; Toynbee on, 269; 
London Library a symbol of, 
299; embraced by Prince Lee 
Boo, 308; Femey a symbol of, 
336. See also culture 
Clapham and Clapham Sect, 
182, 185-9; exhibition on 

(where F.’s article, as published 
in the New Statesman^ was 
exhibited, and which F. des- 
cribed in a letter to his mother 
as ‘Marge, ill-managed and 
muddled”), 185, 188 
Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl 


of (1609-74): History of the 
Great Rebellion quoted (“Stone- 
dead hath no fellow”, g.t;.), 329- 

330 

Clark, Sir Kenneth (afterwards 
Lord; 1903- ), 91 
class: Gide’s freedom from pre- 
judice over, 221; Virginia 
Woolf’s consciousness of, 250; 
Mrs Miniver and, 291-3. See 
also ruling class; working class 
classics: unpopularity of, 100; 

how to recommend, 104 
Claudel, Paul (1868-1955): and 
Gide, 225; La Ville (second 
version, Act I) quoted, 84, 1 12 
Cleopatra (69-30 b.c.; with An- 
tony, defeated by Octavian at 
Actium, 31 B.C.), 235 
clergymen: vision of, praying for 
evil, 28; unflattering references 
to, 82, 89; enlightened, in 
B.B.C., 187; a Gloucestershire 
one, and his parishioners, 291; 
an Irish one (Swift), 313 
cleverness: Voltaire’s preferred to 
Macchiavelli’s, 215 
cliques : dangers and uses of, 117; 
of middlemen, 251; Forrest 
Reid unable to fit into, 264 
Clouds Hill (National Trust pro- 
perty), 339-42 

Cockilla and Cockathey (or Co- 
cathey; not, in fact, the names 
of Blanchard’s wives, but of 
two out of three Pelew women 
later reported by Hockin as 
being shipped to Bombay and 
back), 310 

Cockney: Moll Flanders the apo- 
theosis of the, 351 
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (“Silas 
Tomkyn Combcrbache”; 1772- 
>834). 77. 83, 369, 345; “An- 
cient Mariner”, 77-84 passim, 
261 ; “Kubla Khan”, iii, 112 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


colonels, at Delhi, chorus of: 
indignation over old gentlemen 
who fall ill (i.e. Hcrmon Ould, 
q.v.), 322 

Colorado River, 328 
colour question, see racial pre- 
judice 

colours in music, see music 
Gomberbachc, see Coleridge 
comedian, an affronted, see Hay 
commercialism: evib of, 189; 
Virginia Woolf safeguarded 
against, by money, 240. See 
also capitalism; money 
Commines, Philippe de (writer of 
memoirs; c, 1446-1511), 297 
common (or average) man: cur- 
rent adulation of, 91, 226 
commonplace book, Bishop Jebb*s 
(1804-6?), afterwards F.’s 
(1925-68; F.’s entries are in- 
dexed, and the fifth is on Tris- 
tram Shandy y Moll Flanders coming 
sixth; now at King’s College, 
Cambridge), 181-4, 353 -^y 374 
Communism, see Russia 
Communists (Reds): the grand 
Nordic argument about, 13; 
suspicious of aesthetic products 
of the past, 103 

community, the: versus the indi- 
vidual, 56-7, 267. See also 
society; State, the 
Comnena, Anna, See Anna 
complexity: release from worry 
lies in Erection of, 24; duty of 
registering and conveying, 224; 
Mediterranean, 233 
conductor (orchestral) : an im- 
passioned beetle, 122 
Conrad, Joseph (1857-1924): a 
possible censorship victim, 5 1 
conscience, see social conscience 
considerateness: in F.*8 aristo- 
cracy, 70-1 

Cooper, Charles Henry (1808-66) : 


Armais of Cambridge quoted, 346, 
347 

Corneille, Pierre (1606-84): Le 
Cid, 106 

Cornelia (idolized mother of the 
Roman tribunes Tiberius and 
Gaius Gracchus; second cen- 
tury B.C.), 258 

Coronation arrangements (1937), 
348, 351, 373 

Corot, J. B. P. (1796-1875), 126 
Council for Civil Liberties (whose 
first President F. was, 1934-6), 
47-8; F. represents, on a depu- 
tation (q.v.), 15-16 
countryside, English: erosion of, 
56-7, 267; loved by Virginia 
Woolf, 243; and by T. E. 
Lawrence, 342. See also Abinger 
courage: in research, 19; in time 
of crisis, 22-3; in war, 29; in 
F.’s aristocracy, 70-1 ; in Wil- 
liam Arnold’s Oakfield, 192; 
in Cavafy, 233-5; ^ Rose 
Macaulay, 267 

Crabbe, George (1754-1832), 
166-77, i79~8o; "The Village 
quoted, 167; Tales (No. 10) 
quoted, 169; The Borough: 
“Peter Grimes”, 169-77; Pre- 
face quoted, 174-5; “Prisons”, 
175-6. For sources of other quo- 
tations see Crabbe, George (1785- 
1857); Huchon 

Crabbe, George (1785-1857) : L\fe 
of George Crabbe quoted, i68 
(first and third quotations, the 
latter citing a letter from his 
father to Henchman Crowfoot, 
19 January 1831), 175 (citing 
a remark to Lady Scott, quoted 
by J. G. Lockhart in letter of 
26 December 1833) 

Cracow (visited by F. in 1932) : 
University of, 38^ 


383 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


creation (creativeness; creativity; 
the creative state or impulse): 
is disinterested, means passion- 
ate understanding, 41 ; ils allies, 
41; varieties of, 67; under 
shadow of sword (etc.), 69, 72; 
an achievement in itself, 70; 
and Creator, 82; in literature, 
83-4. 86; unconnected with 
mateyness, 90-1 ; nature of, 
exemplified by Coleridge, des- 
cribed by Claudel, 111-12; 
need for imagination in, 180 
Creon, King of Thebes, see Sopho- 
cles 

Cretinist ancestry, possible need 
for, 18 

crime : and illness, in Erewhon, 
214 

crisis: behaviour in time of, 21-4 
Criterion, The, 253 
critic, the modern, 264 
criticism : a cooler ally of creation, 
41; permitted by democracy, 
67; its raison d'itre, limitations 
and dangers, 105-18; called a 
charming parasite, a gadfly, an 
imp, no; Virginia Woolf and, 
240; should be tentative, 277; 
Indian weakness in, 320 
Crivclli, Carlo (fifteenth century), 
127, 231 

Cromwell, Oliver ( 1 599- 1 658) : 
did not say, “Stone-dead hath 
no fellow “ {q.v,), 329 
crooners: and Sir Richard Terry, 
99-100; in a cultureless world, 

lOI 

culture : freedom necessary for, 
31-5; English, summarized, 31; 
German, likewise, 34; impor- 
tance of, 99-104; no longer a 
social asset, 102; T. S. Eliot 
on, 253-4. Aft’ civiliza- 

tion; taste 

curiosity: a characteristic of 


humanism, 220-1 ; Virginia 
Woolf’s, 238, 25 1 ; about poetry, 
278 

Curie, Richard (1883-1968), 196 
cynicism: necessity for a crust of, 
227 

Cyriac of Ancona (c. 1390-1450), 
231 

Czechoslovakia : Nazi treatment 

of. 38 

D’Annunzio, Gabriele (1863- 
1938), 230-2 

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), 84, 
99, 1 14, 216, 253, 297; and the 
holders of tongues, 28-9; his 
intolerance, 46; his attitude to 
Brutus and Cassius, 66; a cul- 
tural test-case, 10 1 ; Inferno (III : 
5-6) quoted, 10 1 ; Divine Comedy 
one of F.’s three great books, 
212, 215 

Darwin, Charles (1809-82), 195, 
296 

Davies, Margaret Llewellyn (b, 
1861): Life As We Have Known 
It, 250-1 

Day Lewis, Cecil (1904-72): The 
Poetic Image quoted, 1 16 
Dead, Book of the, 30 
death: expectation of, makes men 
separate, 73; has no retrospec- 
tive force, 337 
death-duties, 187, 292 
Debussy, Claude (1862-1918), 
228; and Monet (cf. Howards 
End, chapter 5), 123 
decadence: some people’s name 
for civilization, 68 
Decontamination, Ministry of, 28 
Defoe, Daniel (whom in 1 9 1 9 F, had 
not yet read, to Virginia Woolf’s 
amazement; 1661 ?-x 731): Moll 
Flanders, 351; subject of entry 
in commonplace book, 184 


384 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


de la Marc, Walter (1873-1956), 
264, 269 

Delhi, 315, 319, 321, 322; Great 
Mosque, 366. See also colonels 
democracy: merits of, 66-7; in- 
dustrialism and, 267 ; demo- 
cratic good manners, 271, 272 
Denis, Madame Louise ( 1 7 1 2-90) , 
335> 336, 337 

deputation, F. on a (to the Home 
Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, in 
December 1938, urging the 
amendment of the Official Se- 
crets Acts; F. representing the 
Council for Civil Liberties, 
g.v.), 15-16 
desert, the, 260-2 
Devis, Arthur William (1763- 
1822), 309-10 

dialect: in Barnes, 197-200 
Dickens, Charles (1812-70), 219, 
269; and London, 351 
Dickinson, Goldsworthy Lowes 
(1862-1932), 276, 347, 409; A 
Modern Symposium, 46 
dictators: limitations of, 73. See 
also Great Men; hero, the; 
tyrants 

dignite, see Baudelaire 
dishonesty: reciprocal, over books, 
favoured by F., 297 
Disney, Walt (1901-66), see 
mickey-mice 

disorders : the past a series of, 88-9 
Diss, Norfolk, 133, 134, 138-9, 140 
Dog beneath the Skin, The (Auden 
and Ishei-wood), 259 
dogs: less subtle than cats, 28; 

Forrest Reid and, 263, 265 
Donizetti, Gaetano (1797-1848): 

Lucia di Lammermoor, 1 77 
Dorset, 339-42; dialect, 197-200 
Douglas, Norman (1868-1952), 
276 

dragon, an agonized, 126 
drama ; uselessness predominant 


in, 79; wiped out by broad- 
casting and cinema, 99 ; Romain 
Rolland and, 227-8. See also 
Elizabethan dramatists; Shakes- 
peare 

drawers: in English society, 293 
Drayton, Samuel (1563-1631), 

154 

Dreadnought hoax, 239 
drilling: varieties of, 312 
drink, see food 

dullness: growth of, 272; the spirit 
of, 336-7; London’s deceptive 
air of, 350 

Dundas, Scots poet, 145-6 

Ealing, see Balham 
Earth, the: description of, in 
space, 3, 7-8 

East India Company, 307, 3 1 1 
economy, the new : to be combined 
with the old morality, 55-6 
Edinburgh, 344 

education : literature and, 84. 

See also preparatory schools 
Edward VII (1841-1910), 326 
efficiency-regimes, 67, 70 
Egyptian priesthood, 71 
Eiffel Tower, 3-4 
eighteenth century: attitude to- 
wards freedom, 10; and the sea, 
260; Cambridge, in, 346 
Einstein, Albert (1879-1955), 35, 
89; cannot be understood by 
literary men, 269 
elementary schools, see schools 
Eliot, George (1819-80), 271; 
Middlemarch (Dorothea Cas- 
aubon), 245 

Eliot, T. S. (1888-1965): often 
echoed in India, 320; The 
Cocktail Party, 254-6; “The 
Waste Land” quoted, 351-2; 
Notes towards the Definition of 
Culture, 253-4 

Elizabethan dramatists, 151 


385 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Empire, see British Empire 
England: when she will cease to 
be England, 290; more urban 
than America, 328; Americans 
uninterested in, 329. See also 
Abingcr; Aldcburgh; Bath; 
Blythburgh; Cambridge; coun- 
tryside; Dorset; Framlingham; 
Gloucestershire; Hertfordshire; 
London; Oxford; Stratford 
English, the: not good at organ- 
izing lighter happinesses, 7; 
prone to snigger, 13; character- 
istics and achievements of, 31; 
fond of grumbling, 148; sus- 
picious of cleverness, 215; 
D’Annunzio a test-case for, 
230; and the Greeks, 237; S. R. 
Masood and, 286; their tem- 
perament hardly worth inter- 
preting, 294; in India (1946), 
318 

English language: extended by 
Virginia Woolf, 252; use of, in 
India, 317-18 

English literature: high status of, 
31 ; prose, 1918-39, 266-77 
enjoyment: growth of idea of, 102 ; 
importance of, 104; liable to be 
checked by criticism, 106 
enlightened greediness, 246 
Erasmus, Dcsiderius (1466?- 
1536), 46; one of F.’s law- 
givers, 65 

Erinyes (Eumenides, avenging dei- 
ties), 234 

Europe: is mongrel for ever, 18; 
T. S. Eliot and, 253-4; London 
Library and contact with, 302. 
See also tragedy 
Evangelism, 186 
Evelyn, John (1620-1706), 295 
exhaustion, universal: a possible 
panacea, 89 

experiment: the artist’s desire to, 

98 


exploitation, 55, 220-1 

facts : difficulty of facing, 22 
faith: or habit?, 30; distrusted, as 
mental starch, 65; F.’s has a 
very small f., 72; makes one 
unkind, 99. See also belief 
family prayers, 186—7 
fanaticism : easier to see in others, 
46 

fancy, see Keats 

“Far in a western brookland” 
(Housman), 79 
farming: now scientific, 268 
Fascism: dilemma posed by, 23; 
accepts D’Annunzio, 232. See 
also Nazis 

fashion: as cultural factor, decay 
of, 102 

fear: of the universe and the herd, 
9; in the post-Munich world, 
21-4 

feminism: Virginia Woolf’s, 249- 
250 

Ferney (visited by F. and Charles 
Mauron, 24 June 1939), 335-8. 
See also Kcate 
feudalism: end of, 267, 293 
fiction: blend of uselessness and 
information in, 79 ; enriched 
by psychology, 268-9; 8y 
idea of relativity, 269-70. See 
also individual novelists 
Fielding, Henry (1707-54): Tom 
Jones, 79, 80 

First World War: compared with 
Second, 31, 33, 35; Romain 
Rolland and, 227-8; D’An- 
nunzio in, 230, 242 ; three 
artists in, 230; T. E. Lawrence 
in, 267; ended only the Vic- 
torian peace, 276 
Fitzgerald, Edward (1809-83): 

Rubdiydt, 296 
Fletcher, see Beaumont 


386 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


flying fortress (alluding to the 
American bomber), 247 
‘ ‘ F ollowing darkness ’ * (Shakes- 
peare), 265 

food and drink: and family 
prayers, 186-7; ^it the Webbs’, 
210; in Virginia Woolf, 246-7; 
in India, 317; spilling of, 325- 
326; in America, 330; at Clouds 
Hill, 340 

force (violence) : fails in long run, 
42; ultimate reality, but some- 
times in abeyance, 67-9, 72 ; 
cannot destroy art, 219 
form: in art, necessity of, 92; in 
Proust, 216. See also pattern 
Forster, Rev. Charles (F.’s grand- 
father) : and Bishop Jebb, 182, 
183; his works, character and 
books, 295-6 

Forster, Edward Morgan (1879- 
1970): 

places and dates: early years in 
Hertfordshire, 56, 35 1 ; in Cam- 
bridge, over forty years, 343; 
at Abinger (i927?-46), 353-8; 
at Clouds Hill (1920s and 
1930s), 339-42; in London 

(i 930 j 312; in a hideous block 
of flats, with loud-voiced neigh- 
bours (1940-1), 43, 103, 104; 
at Cracow (1932), 39; at Paris 
Exhibition (1937), 6-7; at Fer- 
ney (1939). 335-8; in Egypt 
(First World War), 233, 237, 
354-5; in South Africa (1929), 
324-6; in India (1921), 14; 
(i945> with earlier recollec- 
tions), 54, 315-23; in America 
(i947)> 327-31 ; at Mount Leb- 
anon (1949), 332-4 
family f see Forster, C.; Fors- 
ter, L.; Forster, W. and E.; 
James; Sykes; Thornton 
friendships and encounters: with 
Edward Carpenter, 206; with 


C. P. Cavafy, 233, 237; with 
Roger Fry, 126-7, 128; with 
Gidc, 221, 224; with Moham- 
med Iqbal, 282, 320; with 
T. E. Lawrence, 339-42; with 
Syed Ross Masood, 285; with 
Charles Mauron, 128, 335, 336, 
338; with Forrest Reid, 263, 
264-5; with Tagore, 320; with 
the Webbs, 210; with Virginia 
Woolf, 252 

roles: as a child, 12, 55, 56; as 
heir of some Thornton money, 
178; as London Library mem- 
ber, 306; as citizen, during 
Munich crisis, 22; as member 
of a deputation {q.v.), 15-16; 
as theatre-goer (in a modest 
way), 150, 153; as gallery-goer, 
126-9; as concert-goer, 122-4; 
as pianist, 1 24-5 ; as opera- 
composer, 178 

outlook and tastes {see also 
specific topics for views thereon) : 
beliefs summarized, 65-73; an 
individualist, 32, 54, 72; an 
intellectual, 58; belongs to fag- 
end of Victorian liberalism, 54; 
ignorant of economics and poli- 
tics, 31; his library, 295-8; his 
three great books, 212; in- 
fluenced by Erewhony 212, 214- 
215; and negatively by St 
Augustine, Macchiavelli, Swift, 
Carlyle, 215; the people who 
touch his imagination, 3 1 2 

writings: Howards End, Gide 
and, 225; The Longest Journey 
and his reaction to criticism, 
1 17; Nordic Twilight, 359, 362; 
A Passage to India, S. R. Masood 
and, 285; commonplace book, 
*83-4. 353-8. 374; poetry, #78; 
excessive use of “but”, u8; 
punctuation, 360; use of quota- 
tion, 360-1, 362 


387 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Forster, Laura (F.’s aunt), 296 
Forster, William and Emily (F.*s 
unde and aunt), 1 10 
fortress, see flying fortress 
Framlingham church, Suffolk, 1 33 
France: eighteenth-century, 88; 
the country that has honoured 
art most, 286 

France, Anatole (1844-1924), 295 
Francis, St, of Assisi (1181/2- 
1226) : a modern version of, 187 
Franck, C^sar (1822-90), 4, 123; 

String Quartet, 1 24 
Frederick the Great, of Prussia 
(1712-86): and Voltaire, 162- 
165; more civilized than Hitler, 
163 

free mind, a: a characteristic of 
humanism, 221 

freedom: the menace to (1935), 
9-1 1 ; necessary for culture, 
31-5; Ronald Kidd and, 47-9; 
imperilled by planning for the 
mind, 55; personal, versus econo- 
mic justice, 56; and prose style, 
61; and democracy, 66-7; of 
speech, in danger, 72; Edward 
Carpenter and, 206; Gide and, 
220-1 ; Soviet contempt for, 
224; in America, tends to mean 
freedom to make money, 329. 
See also censorship 
French, the: good at organizing 
lighter happinesses, 7; as depic- 
ted by Proust, 218-19 
French Revolution, 226; love in, 
44 

Freud, Sigmund (1856-1939), 35, 
37> 258, 268; cannot be under- 
stood by literary men, 269 
Freudian interpretations: infalli- 
bly miss values of art, 176; 
tlieir excessive reliance on in- 
cest and castration, 262 
fricassee: of the moister persuasion 
(cf. “trees of the lead-pencil 


persuasion” in “Arthur Snatch- 
fold”), 325 

Friends, Society of, 187-8 
friendship (s) : versus patriotism, 
66; F.’s belief in, 69; outside 
own class, 196, 205, 207; 

formed at Cambridge, 343. 
See also affection; love 
Froissart, Jean (historian; c. 1337- 
1410), 297 

Fry, Roger (art critic; 1866-1934), 
104; in art-galleries with F., 
12^7, 128; Virginia Woolf’s 
biography of, 102, 240, 244 

Gainsborough, Thomas (1727- 
1 788) : portrait of Garrick, 1 56 
Galsworthy, John (1867-1933), 
276 

games, see golf; sport 
Gandhi, Mahatma (1869-1948), 
59> 371 

“gangsterdom for ever”, 34 
Garcia Lorca, see Lorca 
Garrick, David ( 1 7 1 7-79) : and 
Stratford Jubilee of 1769, 154-6 
Garvice, Charles (journalist, and 
author of some eighty novels, 
many with “girl” or “love” 
in the title; 1851-1920), 80 
Gastrell, Rev. Francis, 154 
Genesis, Book of, 82 
George, St, 126 

George, Stefan (1868-1933), 221-3 
Germany (pre-Nazi ; for Nazi per- 
iod see Nazis) : in First World 
War, 31; achievements of, 34; 
Voltaire in, 162-5 
Gibbon, Edward (1737-94): Auto- 
biography, 157-61; Decline and 
79, 157, 158, 160-1; one 
of F.’s three great books, 212, 

215 

Gide, Andr^ (1869-1951), 220-1, 
224-5, 295 ; a natural democrat, 
222 


388 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Giles, Mrs, of Durham, 250-1 
Giono, Jean (whose pacifism lan- 
ded him in prison in 1939; 
1895-1970), 23 

Giorgione {c. 1477-15 10): Castel- 
franco Madonna, 127 
girls: kissed by men to distract 
them from the vote, 249 
Glasgow, 267 

Gloucestershire : village life in, 
291; smarter than Kent?, 292, 
293-4 

Gluck, G. W. von (1714-87): 
Orfeo, 123 

God : City of, 1 1 ; as creator, 82, 
83, 84, 86; imagination com- 
pared to, by Shelley, 86; in- 
structed on His own attributes, 
186; Iqbal and, 282-4; Vol- 
taire and, 335 

Goebbels, Paul Josef (1897-1945), 
40, 53, 222 

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 
(1749-1832): 46, 336; arch- 
enemy of Nazis, 37; Faust, 115, 
284 

Gogh, Vincent van, see van Gogh 
golf : a source of anxiety, 348 
good temper: not enough, 65 
goodness: Blake’s preferred to St 
Augustine’s, 215 

goodwill: cuts no ice in India, 
322-3 

Gourmont, Remy de (1858-1915), 

23 

governing class, see ruling class 
Gracchi, see Cornelia 
Grand Canyon, 327-8 
grandsire-grandson alliance, 176 
Gray, Thomas (1716-71), 155 
Great Man, the: belittled, 70; 

Rolland’s cult of, 226 
Greece, ancient, 103, 237; saw 
Man’s first attempt to become 
an individual, 9. See also 
Athens 


Greece, modern: Cavafy on, 237 
greed: moulds great cities, 349 
greediness, enlightened, 246 
Greek Anthology, 82 
Greeks, the: and the English, 237 
“green thought” (Marvell), 129 
Greene, Graham (1904- ), 268 

Greenwich Village, 333 
Grigson, Geoffrey (1905- ), ed.: 

Poetry of the Present, 278-81 
Group Movement, see Oxford 
Group 

Grundy, Mrs: mocked in Erewhon 
(which much influenced F.), 2 14 
Guatemala, death of Emperor of, 

85 

guests: behaviour of, 324 

habit : or faith ?, 30 
Hall, Henry (1899- ), 99 
Handel, G. F. (1685-1759), 228 
happiness: Solon quoted on, 336 
hardness : docs not even pay, 54-5 ; 
Virginia Woolf’s admirable, 
250; Iqbal’s, 282-4 
Hardy, Thomas (1840-1928), 
337-8; and T. E. Lawrence, 
340-1 

Hare, Augustus (1834-93): Two 
Noble Lives, 241 

harmony: in art, 57, 88, 90, 91; 
between man and his surround- 
ings, lack of, 89; mystic, 89; 
contrasted with doctrine, 221; 
in the fabric of England, 293 
Harrison, Frederic (1831-1923): 
Carlyle and the London Library 
quoted, 300-1 

Harvard University: F. addresses 
Symposium on Music at, 105- 
1 18 

Hay, Will (1888-1949): and 
B.B.C. fade-out incident, too 
Haydn, Joseph (1732-1809): 
Shaw on, 109-10 


389 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Hayck, F. A. von (1899- )j 
head, see heart; intellect; intelli- 
gence 

Heard, Gerald (1889- ; original 

of William Propter in Aldous 
Huxley’s Time Must Have a 
Stop; see also G. H. Thomson, 
“Forster, Gerald Heard and 
Bloomsbury**, in English Litera- 
ture in Transition^ vol. 12, 1969), 
356; Pain, Sex and Time, 25-7 
heart and head : in William 
Barnes, 198; in Edward Car- 
penter, 205 

Heart, Change of, see Change 
“Heart’s affections, the holiness 
of the** (Keats, q>v,), 71 
Heidelberg, University of, 222 
Heine, Heinrich (1797-1856; his 
denouncer was Adolf Bartels, 

?■»•). 37 

Hcisch, Miss, later Mrs Hookey; 
poem on the Pelew Islands, 
312-13 

Hemingway, Ernest (1898-1961), 
271 

Henry VIII (i49i-i537), i33> 
143-5; the age of, 137-8, 148 
Herbert, A. P. (later Sir Alan; 
1890-1971), 372 

herd, the; fear of, disguised as 
loyalty, 9 

Heredia, Jos<5-Maria de (1842- 
1905), 236, 295 

hero, the; Carlyle and, 40, 215; 
worship of, a dangerous vice, 
69-70; Gide not an example 
of^ 220; Romain Rolland and, 
226-9; D’Annunzio as, 230, 
232; T. E. Lawrence as, 260, 
272-3 

Herodotus (fifth century B.c.) : 
T. E. Lawrence’s inscription 
from, 339 

Hertfordshire; F.’s childhood 
home in, 55, 56; his denuncia- 


tions of London from, 351 
highbrow, the: eclipse of?, 91 
Hinduism : and non-Hindus, 320 
history: effect of knowing, 10; and 
literature, 84; and psychology, 
269; F*s motive in studying, 
312. See also past, she 
Hider, Adolf (1889-1945), ii, 22, 
41, 220, 222, 226; arouses pity 
as well as horror and disgust, 
26-7; speech, 18 July 1937, 
when opening the House of 
German Art at Munich (“quo- 
tations** are from F.’s common- 
place book, q.v., where he has 
paraphrased Hitler’s speech; 
see Norman H. Baynes, ed., 
The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, 
London, O.U.P., 1942, vol. i, 
PP- 587 "-92), 34, 36; compared 
with Frederick the Great, 163, 
164; foreshadowed by Carlyle, 
215; would destroy Cambridge 
free of charge, 346 
Hoare, Sir Samuel (later Lord 
Templewood ; 1 880-1959 ; Home 
Secretary, 1937-9), 

Hockin, J. P.; Supplement to the 
Account of the Pelew Islands, 314; 
quoted, 309 

“holiness of the Heart’s affec- 
tions’* (Keats, q,v.), 71 
Holy Roman Empire: 56 
Home Office; 67 

Home Secretary; F. on a 
deputation {q^v,) to, 15-16 
Homer, 82, 295 

honesty: Virginia Woolf’s, 250; 

defensive value of, 291 
Hookey, Mrs, see Heisch, Miss 
hope; correlated with anger, 5 
Hoppner, John (1758-18x0), 185 
Horace (65-8 B.c.), 69 
Housman, A. E. (1859-1936), 
198; “Far in a western brook- 
land”, 79 


390 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Huchon, Ren 6 (1872-1940): Un 
Pohte Rialiste Anglais (George 
Crab be and his Times) quoted, 
168 (second quotation; letter 
to Edmund Cartwright, 22 
July 1794), 175 (on “the leather 
lads”, citing Edward Fitz- 
gerald), 179 

Hulbcrt, Jack (actor and comed- 
ian; 1892- ), 3 

human aim, the : summarized, 

299-300 

humanism: as reaction to Euro- 
pean tragedy, 221; contrasted 
with authoritarianism, 223 

humanist, the: four characteris- 
tics of, exemplified by Gide, 
220-1, 223, 224 

humanity: Voltaire’s, 162, 163, 
337; belief in, a characteristic 
of humanism, 220, 221; com- 
mon, thwarted of late, 323. 
See also Man 

Humayun, Mogul emperor (1508 

-1556), 321 

humble connections, advantage of, 
209 

humour, sense of: the “saving 
grace”, 230; a hoary nostrum, 
240 

Huxley, Aldous (1894-1963): Grey 
Eminence^ 269 

Hyderabad, 285; F.’s happiness 
in, 317; university at, 321 

“ I will purge . . and similar 
phrases, 36, 45 

Ibsen, Henrik (1828-1906): sub- 
ject of entry in commonplace 
book, 183; Per Gynt, 258, 282 

ideals: F.’s distrust of, 45; willing- 
ness to drop a couple to oblige 
a friend, commended by Butler, 
214; in politics, Cavafy bored 
237; and brutality, 247. 
See also causes 


idleness : of Shakers, commended, 

.334 

illness: and crime, in Erewhon, 214; 
Proust and, 216-17; in Vir- 
ginia Woolf and others, 240-1 
imagination : entailed in tolerance, 
45; our only guide into the 
world created by words, 86; 
the creative, 180 

immortality: not to be won by 
talking, 230 

incompetence: need to get rid of 
feeling of, 291 

India: F.’s visit to, in 1945 
(when the “old gentleman” 
whose illness aroused the 
colonel’s indignation at Delhi 
was Hermon Quid, ^.r.), 54, 
315-23; William Arnold and, 
190-2; Iqbal and, 282-3; Mas- 
ood and, 285-7; books about, 
297 ; Americans bored over, 329 ; 
inscription on a gateway in, 
341 ; Moslem buildings in, 354 
India Office: Marine Records^ ^yoa 
(Antelope^s logbook, December 
1791 to June 1793) and 570c 
(pay records), 305 
Indian languages, 318, 320 
Indian literature, 297, 320. See 
also Iqbal 

Indians claiming descent from 
Sun, 19 

individual, the (individuals) : does 
not exist, 9-10; a divine achieve- 
ment, 55-6; versus the com- 
munity or State, 56-7, 66; im- 
possible to abolish, 73, 363; 
or to grade, 117; F.’s quest for, 
in America, 327, 328 
industrialism, 292 ; simplicity and, 
204; Edward Carpenter and, 
206; effect of, on writex^ and 
others, 267-8; unforeseen by 
Voltaire, 336 


391 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


influence : exerted by books which 
one feels one could almost have 
written, 215 

informality; growth of, 270-1 
information ; contrasted with 
atmosphere (must be accurate, 
should be signed), 77-80, 86; 
irrelevant to literature, 84 
Inglis, Sir Robert (1786-1855) : on 
Henry Thornton, 185, 186 
insanity, see madness 
inspired breathlessness, 242 
instinct: superior to reason, 35 
institutionalism: the snag in, 300 
insurance: replacing charity, 268; 

soddening effect of, 293 
intellect, the: not everything, 
but dangerous to insult, 41 ; 
Soviet regimentation of, 224; 
Virginia Woolf and, 247. See 
also reason 

intellectuals: versus scientists, 58 
intelligence: poetic and prose 
varieties, 198 

internationalism (super-national- 
ism): Goethe ripe for, 37; Rol- 
land and, 229; a cert, 294; 
Sir Mirza Ismail and, 320 
inventions, see scientific research 
inventiveness, see Man 
Iqbal, Mohammed (1875-1938), 
282-4, 320 

Ireland, Northern: Forrest Reid 
and, 264 

Isherwood , Christoph er ( 1 904- ) , 
248; Mr Norris Changes Trains, 
271. See also Ascent of F 6 ; Dog 
beneath the Skin 
Islam: Iqbal and, 282-3; 

sense of peace, 354-5 
Ismail, Sir Mirza (1883-1959), 
3 i 9 > 320 

isolation: subject of entry in 
commonplace book, 184 
Italy: Renaissance, 88, 90; D'An- 
nunzio and, 230, 232 


Jacopone da Tod: (1230-1306): 
quoted (as also, following F., 
by W. H. Auden in “Kairos 
and Logos”), 72, 90 
Jaipur: conference in, 315, 318-20 
James I (1566-1625), 82; made a 
mess, 90 

James, Henry (1843-1916), 103, 
104; as psychologist, 79; Forrest 
Reid and, 264; Portrait of a 
Lady, 364 

James, Mrs (F.’s great-grand- 
mother), 17 

Jebb, John, Bishop of Limerick 
(1775-1833), 181-4 
Jerusalem, the New, 206 
Jew-consciousness, see antisemi- 
tism 

Jewish gifts to the world, 216 
Jocasta (incestuous mother of 
Oedipus in Greek myth), 258 
John, King (1 167 ?-i2i6), 353 
John Company, see East India 
Company 

Johnson, Samuel (1709-84), 271; 
goes to Brighton instead of 
Stratford (as guest of the 
Thrales, and probably not as a 
calculated slight on the Jubilee), 
155; quoted by Bishop Jebb, 184 
Jones, the boy, 274 
Jonson, Ben (1572-1637), 154 
Jourdain, M. (Moli^rc's Le Bowr~ 
geois Gentilhomme) , 270 
journalism: big opportunity of, 
107. See also newspapers 
journalists: their tendency to call 
artists uppish, 91. See also 
middlemen 

Joyce, James (1882-1941), 267, 
269, 272; Ulysses, 273 
Julian the Apostate (332-63; as 
Emperor, tried with scant suc- 
cess to oust Christianity), 235 
justice: economic, versus personal 
freedom, 56; Virginia Woolf’s 


392 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


concern for, 248 

Karnes, Lord (1696-1782): For- 
sterian remark on criticism 
attributed to (probably through 
confusion; the “imp** image 
occurs in a sentence written in 
1930 in F.’s commonplace book, 
which incorporates a poss- 
ibly genuine quotation — “criti- 
cism is the most agreeable of 
all amusements’* — from Karnes. 
Keate, George (1729-97; author, 
painter, and friend of Voltaire, 
to whom he dedicated a poem 
on Ferney, and via whom 
F. doubdess became interested 
in him, in 1930 while writing the 
two Voltaire essays in Abinger 
Harvest \ his enchanting Account 
of tfie Pelew Islands is, with some 
distortion — see Gockilla; Minks 
— and some ostensible quota- 
tions that bear little or no 
relation to the original, the 
main source for “A Letter to 
Madan Blanchard”), 305, 310, 
373 

Keats, John (1795-1821), 106; 
allusion to “La Belle Dame sans 
Merci” (“the No Bird Sings”), 
28; on the holiness of the 
Heart’s affections (letter to 
Benjamin Bailey, 22 November 
1817), 71; allusion to “To 
Fancy” (Wagner never let the 
fancy roam”), 123 
Kent; less smart than Gloucester- 
shire?, 292, 294-5 
Ker (W. P.) Lecture, 266-77 
key signatures, see music 
Keyes, Sidney (1922-43); quoted, 

280 

Kidd, Ronald {d, 1942), 47-9 
Kirkup, James ( 1 923- ) : quoted, 

281 


kitten; need for public to pop out 
an occasional, 290 
knowledge : common and un- 
common, 81; contrasted with 
power, 89; and with wisdom, 
106; coupled with wisdom, 247, 
248; in need of protection, 301 
Kon-Tiki (balsa-wood raft on 
which, in 1947, six Norwegians 
led by Thor Heyerdahl sailed 
from Peru to Polynesia), 260 
Koreans, North and South, 59 

Labour Party and movement : 
antisemitism and, 13; Edward 
Carpenter and, 205-6 
ladies; probable extinction of, 250 
Lahore, 317, 354 

laissez-faire: works in world of 
spirit, not in material world, 
55 

Lamb, Charles (1775-1834), 83, 
246 

“last infirmity” (Milton’s “Lyci- 
das”), 258 

laughter: difficulty of describing, 

325 

lavatories: in Cambridge, 343 
Lawrence, D. H. (1885-1930), 
269, 272, 276 

Lawrence, T. E. (1888-1935), 230, 
257, 272, 274, 276; an aggressive 
landlubber, 260, 261; and in- 
dustrialism, 267-8; at Clouds 
Hill, 339-42 ; Seven Pillars of 
Wisdom, 272-3, 339, 341 
leaders, party; and the best rooms, 
206 

League of Nations, 69, 89, 227 
Leaning Tower, the, 238 
Lear, Edward (1812-88), 260 
Leavis, Q. D.; Fiction and the 
Reading Public, 100 
Lebanon, Mount, 332-4 
Lee, Ann (1736-84), 332 


393 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Lee Boo, Prince (1764-84), 306- 
312 passim, 351 

Lenin, V. 1 . (1870-1924): Iqbal 
on, 283-4 ' ^ 

Leslie, Sir, see Stephen 
letter- writing: superficial nature 
of, 83 ; as practised by Browning 
and “Snow** Wedgwood, 195- 
196; in 1918 and 1944, 270 
Lewis, Cecil Day, see Day Lewis 
Lewis, Sinclair (1885-1951): Bab- 
bitt, 10 1 

libel laws : effect of, on writers, 38 
liberalism: and antisemitism, 13; 
F. belongs to fag-end of Vic- 
torian, 54-5; crumbling of, 72; 
Acton, S. Eliot and, 254 
liberty, see freedom 
libraries, cheap (chain-), 299; 
hostility towards serious nove- 
lists, 100 

library, F.*s at King*s College, 
Cambridge, 295-8 
light(s) : shining in darkness (John 
1:5), 29, 66; linked with love, 
peace, speech, 30; of F.*s 
aristocracy, 7 1 ; shining before 
men (Matthew 5:16), 104; not 
shining from Cambridge (be- 
cause of wartime blackout), 
247; of the English language, 
252 

Lips, Eva: What Hitler Did to Us, 
362 

literature: signed or unsigned, 77- 
86; wants not to be signed, 81, 
86; is alive, 82; dangers of 
studying, 84; reverence fatal to, 
86; possible abandonment of, 
356. See also art; books; drama; 
English literature; fiction; 
poetry; writer, the 
Locke, John (1632-1704), 58; 
Essay concerning Human Under^ 
standing, 364 

London : ne^ to worry over 


ugliness of, 43; Milton on, 51; 
what it stands for, 267; Prince 
Lee Boo in, 307-8, 310-12; a 
muddle which need not be un- 
pleasant, 348-52 ; Bishop of 
(1937), see Winnington-Ingram. 
See also Balham; Bloomsbury; 
Cockney; Putney; Ranelagh 
Gardens; Rotherhithe; Water- 
loo 

London Library (of which F. was a 
Committee member, 1933-48, 
and a Vice-President, 1960-70, 
and to which in i960 he presen- 
ted the manuscripts of A Passage 
to India for auctioning; they 
were bought by the University 
of Texas for £6,500), 299-302, 
305, 309; ladies with worried 
faces in, 306, 312 

Lorca, Federico Garcia (Spanish 
poet and dramatist shot by 
Nationalists; 1898-1936), 29 

Louis XIV (1638-1715): made a 
mess, 90 

love: Man*s wish to, lo-ii; may 
steady civilization, 10; “the 
beloved Republic** (Swin- 
burnc*s “Hertha**), ii, 66, 68; 
linked with peace, speech, light, 
30; greatest of all things, but 
docs not work in public affairs, 
44-6; needs to be ordered, 72, 
90; criticism pointless without, 
105, 114, 1 18; “Snow** Wedg- 
wood on, 195; and art, William 
Barnes on, 199-200; Edward 
Carpenter*s emphasis on, 206; 
Proust’s view of, 217, 219, 234; 
and Cavafy’s, 234; alternative 
to death (Auden), 260; Vic- 
toria’s, for Albert, 275. See also 
affection; friendship 

Lowes, John Livingston (1867- 
1945) • ^ Xanadu, 1 1 1, 

269 


394 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


loyalty: fear disguised as, 9; 
clashes of, 56-7, 66; between 
individuals, 66, 69; T. E. 

Lawrence and, 272 
Lucas, F. L. (1894-1967): quoted 
{Authors Dead and Living, 1926, 
p. 6), 1 10 

“Lucy Gray*’ (Wordsworth), 264 
luncheon at Pretoria, 324-6 
Lupescu, Magda (Jewish mistress 
— from 1949 to 1953, wife — of 
King Carol, whose refusal to 
discard her was a major issue in 
Romanian politics in the 1920s 
and 1930s), 12 
Lysistrata, see Aristophanes 
Lyte, H. F. (1793-1847): “Abide 
with me” quoted, 90 

Macaulay, Lord (1800-59), 158, 
274 

Macaulay, Rose (1881-1958) : Life 
among the English, 266-7 
Macchiavelli, Nicold (1469-1527) : 
The Prince influenced F. nega- 
tively, 215 

machinery: destroyed in Erewhon 
(which much influenced F.), 214 
Mackintosh, Sir James (philo- 
sopher; 1765-1832), 195, 296 
madness: Virginia Woolf on, 242 
madrigals: F. bored by, 100 
Maintz, Voltaire at, 337 
malevolence, baflBed, sense of, 355 
Malory, Sir Thomas (author of 
Le Morte Darthur; d, 1471), 296 
Malraux, Andr6 (1901- ), 224 
Malthus, T. R. (1766-1834), 345 
Man: his desire for freedom, 9-10; 
his wish to love, lo-ii; his 
desire to feel 100%, 19; his 
moral growth outbalanced by 
his inventiveness?, 2i; Gerald 
Heard’s prescription for, 25-7; 
unprecedented menace to spirit 


of, 29; strange nature of, 42, 70; 
differentiated from the beast by 
art, 57-fl; must order and dis- 
tribute his native goodness, 72; 
and his surroundings, 89; his 
deepest desire, 298; retrogres- 
sion of, 299. See also Change of 
Heart; human aim; humanity; 
individual, the 

Mann, Thomas (1875-1955), 35-6 
manners, good: democratic, 271, 
272; aristocratic, 274 
Mariolatry, 332 

martyrdom : Quakers’ capacity 
for, 188 

Marvell, Andrew (1621-78): allu- 
sion (“green thought”) to “The 
Garden”, 129 

Marx, Karl (1818-83): and inter- 
pretation of art, 1 76 ; subject of 
entry in commonplace book, 183 
Marxism, see Communism 
Masood, Syed Ross (1889-1937), 
285-7; F.’s debt to, 285 
mateyness: estimable, but uncon- 
nected with the creative im- 
pulse, 90-1 ; detested by Virgi- 
nia Woolf, 251 

Maughan, Somerset (1874-1965), 
271 

Mauron, Charles (F.’s French 
translator; d, 1966): explains 
Las Meninas to F., 128; with F. 
at Fcrney, 335-8. See also Paris 
Mavrogordato, John (1882-1970) : 

translations of Cavafy 233-6 
Max Gate (Hardy’s home), 337-8 
mayors : absurdity of, 288-9 
Mediterranean : sea of courage and 
splendour, 232; and of com- 
plexity, 233 

meilleur temoignage, see Baudelaire 
Melville, Herman (iSig-gr)^ 268; 

Moby Dick, 261, 262 
memory: in Proust, 217-19 


395 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Mertf Women and Things (Duke of 
Portland), 288-90 
Mendel, Gregor (1822-84), i9~20 
Mcphistopheles : Virginia* Woolf 
as, 1 15 

Meredith, George (1828-1909), 
366; and “the army of un- 
alterable law” (“Lucifer in 
Starlight”), 89; too much lamp- 
oil in his wine, 246 
M6rim6e, Prosper (1803-70): 
Carmen^ 177 

mess : examples of, 90 ; man-made, 
240, 249 ; global, 266 ; increased 
by technical treatises, 299 
meteorite town (Stevenage) : bet- 
ter name than satellite town, 57 
Michelangelo (1475-1564), 126 
mickey-mice, 10 1 
Middle Ages : love in, 44 
middle-class complacency and 
facctiousncss, 293 
Middle West: and Dante, loi 
middlemen : unflattering reference 
to, 25 1 . See also journalists 
Milk Marketing Board : as symbol 
of bureaucratic encroachment, 
1 1 

Mill, John Stuart (1806-73), 188 
millennium : unlikely to occur, 69, 

89 

Milner, Sir Frederick (1849-1931), 
289 

Milton, John (1608-74), ^^8, 295; 
Areopagiticay 50-3; allusion to 
“Lycidas” (“last infirmity”), 
258; sonnet on blindness mis- 
used, 272 

Minister: deputation (q.v,) to a, 
15-16 

Miniver, Mrs (fictional character 
of Jan Struther), 291-4 
Minks, Godfrey {d. 1783): mis- 
leading account of his death (in 
fact he fell overboard), 307 
modem mind, the: and Henry 


Thornton, 185. See also twen- 
tieth century 

Moli^re (1622-73): Le Bourgeois 
Gentilhomme (M. Jourdain), 270 
Moll Flanders y (Defoe), 351 
Monet, Claude (1840-1926): and 
Debussy (cf. Howards End, chap- 
ter 5), 123 

money: van Gogh on, 5; evils of, 
6; merit of spending in time of 
crisis, 23-4; Victorian attitude 
to, 55; Voltaire and, 163; 
Clapham Sect and, 187-8; 
Henry Thornton on, 188; in 
Erewhon, 213; London’s ab- 
sorption in making and spend- 
ing* 348> 350. See also capi- 
talism; commercialism; riches 
Montaigne (1533-92), 46; one of 
F.’s law-givers, 65 
Mon te verdi , Claudio (1567- 

1643) : Vespers, 366 
monuments: human beings little 
influenced by, 212, 215 
Moore, George (1852-1933), 276 
Moral Rearmament, see Oxford 
Group 

morality, the old : to be combined 
with the new economy, 55-6 
Moriah, Mount (2 Chronicles, 

3:1)* 65 

Morison, Sir Theodore (for many 
years a teacher at Aligarh; 
1863-1936) and Lady, 286 
Morris, Francis (1810-93), 296 
Morris, William (1834-96), 103 
Morton, J. B., see Beachcomber 
Moses (patriarch), 65 
mother: disgrace of having a, 12 
mother-love : usually sacrosanct, 

258 

motor vehicles, 94, 268, 354, 357 
Mount Lebanon, 332-4 
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 
(* 757-94) » 248; adversely com- 
pared with Beethoven, 12 1; 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Don Giovanni, 178 
muddle : of London, 348-52 
Munich agreement, 22 
music : crooning versus madrigals, 
99-100; the deepest of the arts 
and deep beneath the arts, 105; 
critics of, 107-10; like a gun 
(according to F.’s paternal 
uncle Willy), no; need for 
fresh response to, 1 14-15; exists 
in and outside time, 116; sud- 
den deaths in modern, 1 1 7 ; key 
signatures in, 1 19-21, 124-5; 
colours in, 120, 123; listening 
and not listening to, 122-5, 3575 
more “real** than anything, 
124; Romain Rolland and, 226, 
228-9; Virginia Woolf and, 240, 
241, 243, 247, 248; F.*s interest 
in contemporary, 278. See also 
individual composers 
Musset, Alfred de (1810-57), 286 
Mussolini, Benito ( 1 883- 1 945) : 
characterized as Satan, 7 ; use of 
“scent”, i.e. poison gas, in 
Abyssinian war, 7 ; his end, with 
Clara Petacci, 54-5; and Julius 
Caesar, 153; allusion to his 
claim to have made Italian 
trains run on time, 305 
mystic, the (a): and creation, 83, 
84, 86 ; and force, 68 ; and order, 
89-90, 92 ; comprehensible to 
the modem mind, 185; Qua- 
kers* touch of mysticism, 200; 
Edward Carpenter as, 206; 
Iqbal as, 283. See also unseen, 
the 

Mytton, Jack (1796-1834), 244 

nagging: Orwell’s, 59; insidious- 
ness of, 330 

Naidu, Mrs (writer and states- 
woman; </. 1949), 319 
Nash, John (1752-1835), 349 


National Council for Civil Liber- 
ties, see Council 

National Institute for Arts and 
Letters; F. addresses, 97-103 
National Socialists, see Nazis 
nationalism : and internationalism, 
33> 37; German, 34; and sport, 
60 

naturalist: albatross-stuffer a, 81 
nature: cannot be “reserved”, 356 
“naughty world” {Merchant of 
Venice), 29 

Nazis (Nazi Germany) : attitude 
of, to art and culture, 6, 31-5, 
39-41 ; treatment of Britain by, 
if victorious (F. was in fact on 
the Nazi black list), 31, 38-41; 
immaturity of 33 ; treatment of 
Germans by, 35, 38; and of 
Czechoslovakia and Poland, 
38-9; and post-war Germany, 
45; racial prejudice in, 46; and 
allies (Axis), 53; foreshadowed 
in Frederick the Great’s treat- 
ment of Voltaire, 165; and 
Stefan George, 222-3; London 
Library an obvious target for, 
299. See also Fascism; Hitler 
negative virtues: need for, 45 
Nevada, 328 

Nevinson, Henry (journalist and 
writer; 1856-1941), 47 
New York, 327, 328, 330. See also 
Greenwich Village 
New Torker, 332, 334 
newspapers (the press): valuable, 
despite vulgarity and lies, 67; 
signed or unsigned articles in?, 
77, 85; importance and peculi- 
arity of, 80; fake claims of, 85- 
86 ; their hostility towards serious 
novelists, 100. See also journa- 
lism « 

Nicholson, Sir William (1872- 
1949), 210 


397 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Nietzsche, F. W. (1844-1900), 
254, 282 
Nietzscheans, 68 

night is right (“might is ri^ht** is 
from Walther von der Vogel- 
weidc, as translated by Jethro 
Bithell), 29 

nineteen- thirties, 21-4; literature 
of, 266-77 passim 

nineteen-twenties : literature of, 
266-77 passim 

nineteenth century: attitude to- 
wards freedom, 10; flair for 
leisurely misunderstandings, 
195; when the earth was still 
horizontal and the buildings 
perpendicular, 238; and the 
sea, 260 ; before the world broke 
up, 296. See also old order; 
Victorian age 

No Bird Sings (Keats, q.v.)y 28 
Nordic purity, 19, 163 
North Carolina, see 409 
notices, public, 77-Bo; growing 
intelligibility of, 271 
novels, see fiction 

Thou, who changest not** 
(H. F. Lyte), 90 

Oakfield (William Arnold), 190-4 
obstinacy, sudden: admired by F., 
312 

Official Secrets Act, 58. See also 
deputation 

old order, the : vanishing of, 29-30 
Old IVives* TaUy The (Bennett), 245 
Opera, Grand : pierced by Beach- 
comber, no 

“Ordena questo amore** (Jaco- 
pone da Todi, q.v,)y 72, 90 
order: in art, 57, 88, 90-1, 92-3; 
in religion, 72, 89-90, 92; in 
daily life, unattainable, 88-9, 
92 ; in astronomy, 89, 92 ; 
Virginia Woolfs concern for, 
248. See also form; old order; 


pattern 

“ordinary people*’: creativity of, 
67 

Orwell, George (Eric Blair; 1903- 

1950), 59-6 19S4, 59. 

Shooting an Elephanty 59-61 
Osiris, Temple of, 30 
Ould, Hermon (General Editor, 
P.E.N. Books, and fellow dele- 
gate of F. at Jaipur conference, 
1945; 1885-1951): falls ill at 
Delhi and arouses colonels* 
indignation, 322 
Oxford Group, 71, 334 
Oxford University: Gibbon and, 
157-8, 159-60; satirized by 

Samuel Butler, 214; distended 
by endowments, 344 

Paddington (pond), 357-8 
Paderewski, Ignacy (Polish pianist 
and statesman who in the First 
World War created a powerful 
pro-Polish movement in the 
U.S.A.; 1860-1941), 230 
Painy Sex and Time (Gerald Heard), 
25~7 

paintings, see pictures 
Palau, see Pelew 
paper money, 188 
Paris: Exhibition, 1937 (F. com- 
bined visits with attendance as a 
British delegate at a conference 
sponsored by the International 
Institute of Intellectuzd Co- 
operation at which he made two 
speeches— one, as he records in a 
letter to his mother, “a polite 
and quite clever attack on the 
Fascists**; friends who accom- 
panied his visits to the Exhibi- 
tion included his French trans- 
lator and fellow delegate 
Charles Mauron, q.v,y and J. R. 
Ackerley), 3-8; Proust’s, 216, 
218 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Parliament: House of Commons 
and Munich, 22; value of, 67; 
outside and inside, 71 
party leaders, see leaders 
past, the: patronized by the 
scientist, 58; a series of dis- 
orders, 88-9, 90; its statements 
often uncongenial, loi; its use- 
fulness, 1 01, 157; spiders* 

threads thrown back into, 183; 
Cavafy’s attitude to, 235-7; 
Virginia Woolf sensible about, 
249; Forrest Reid’s, and F.’s, 
belief in, 264; our tendency to 
copy, 293. See also history 
patriotism: the cleanest path to, 
60; versus friendship, 66 
patronage in the arts, 94-8, 102 
pattern: in Virginia Woolf, 240, 
243, 244; Voltaire’s achieve- 
ment a, 350. See also form 
Paul, St, 46, 65 
Payne, Jack (1899-1969), 99 
peace: linked with love, speech, 
light, 30; even greater austerity 
demanded in, 319; sense of, 
given by Moslem buildings, 
354-5 ; lost on the earth, 356 
Pelew Islands, 305-14 passim\ sup- 
posed British plan to annex in 
1783 (the islands later became 
a German colony, then a Japa- 
nese mandate, finally a U.N. 
strategic trust territory adminis- 
tered by the U.S.A.), 307 
P.E.N. Club (Poets, Playwrights, 
Essayists, Novelists) : conference 
at Jaipur, 315, 318-20 
people, ^e : F.’s lack of mystic faith 
55; Orwell’s belief in, 60-1; 
and Romzun Rolland’s, 226 
Percy, L., and Maugras, G.: La 
Vie Intime de Voltaire^ 335; 
quoted, 336 

Pericles (Athenian statesman; c. 
495-429 B.a), 237 


Persia, 88, 103 

person: idea of a, shattered by 
psychology, 65 

personal relationships: inter- 
ference with, 56; F.’s belief in, 
65-6; and Virginia Woolf’s, 242 
personality: two levels of, 82-3. 

See also subconscious, the 
Petacci, Clara (Mussolini’s mis- 
tress; d. 1944), 55 
Peter Grimes, see Britten; Grabbe 
philanthropy: Virginia Woolf in- 
different to, 240, 251. See also 
charity 

philosophers: do not exist, 9-10 
Phlegethon (river of fire in the 
Lower World), 28 
piano: F.’s performances on, 124-5 
Picasso, Pablo (1881- ): Guer- 
nica, 5 

pickpockets, male and female, 78 
pictures ; on not looking at, 1 26-9 
Pitt, William (1759-1806), 187 
planning: needed for the body, 
not for the spirit or mind, 55-6, 
58 ; may conflict with individual 
freedom, 56-7; needed in post- 
war world, 94; industrialism 
and, 267 

Plato (c. 427-347 B.C.): Phaedrus 
quoted (in Jowett’s translation, 
as edited by F.), 97 
Plomer, William (1903- ): arti- 
cle on Virginia Woolf {Horizon, 
May 1941), 244 
pluck, see courage 
poetry: lyric, uselessness of, 79; 
contrasted with information, 81 ; 
Plato and, 97 ; Forrest Reid on, 
264; modern critics and, 264, 
278; modern: is obscure and 
minatory, 278-81; the kind 
sought by F., 356. See also 
ballads; and individual poets' 
poets in N. Carolina, see 409 
Poland: Nazi treatment of, 3B-9 


399 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


politics (and politicians), 66, 71; 

Indian interest in, 315-16, 320 
Pompey (106-48 B.c.; Caesar’s 
rival and Rnally cnem^, but 
murdered without his knowl- 
edge and to his distress), 234 
poor, the: exploitation and rebel- 
lion of, 55; violence of, 78; 
Edward Carpenter and, 205-6; 
Beatrice Webb and, 208-9. 
See also poverty 

Porlock, the person from, 1 1 1, 1 12, 
278 

Portland, 6th Duke of (1857- 
1943): Merif Women and Things ^ 
288-90 

possessiveness: does not reach the 
roots of our personality, 297-8 
poverty: in India, 54, 316, 317. 
See also poor, the 

power: contrasted with knowledge, 

89 

Prayer, Book of Common, 186; 
allusion to Second Collect, 
Morning (“perfect freedom”), 
9. See also Bible: Psalms 
prayers, family, 186-7 
prejudice, racial, see racial pre- 
judice 

preparatory schools: two imbecile 
societies, 12-13 
press, the, see newspajjers 
Pretoria, luncheon at (in 1929), 
324-6 

private decencies : and public life, 

71 

“Progress”: whispered by the 
spray, 313 

propaganda: use of word to con- 
fute antisemitism, 13 
property: cut to pieces by death- 
duties, 187. See also possessive- 
ness 

prose: style in, and freedom, 61; 
English, 1918-39, 266-77; two 
functions of, 270 


Protocols of the Learned Elders of 
Zion (fabricated proceedings, 
circulated from 1903 onwards in 
many languages, of congress 
alleged to have planned the 
destruction of Christian civiliza- 
tion by Jews and Freemasons, 
who would then erect a world 
state on its ruins), 14 
Proust, Marcel (1871-1922), 79, 
269, 295; music in, 108-9, 217- 
218; author of our second grea- 
test novel?, 216-19; compared 
with Remain Rolland, 229; and 
relativity, 269-70 
psychology: effect of knowing, 10; 
ironic references to, 28, 363; 
has shattered the idea of a per- 
son, 65; Clapham Sect’s igno- 
rance of, 187; and modern 
literature, 268-70 
public life: and private decencies, 

71 

Puccini, Giacomo (1858-1924): 

Beachcomber on, 1 10 
Punch, 293 

Putney: Gibbon and F. at, 157 

Quakers, 187-8; ineffectiveness of, 
25-6 

racial prejudice, 46, 54; Edward 
Carpenter free from, 207; like- 
wise Gide, 221. See also anti- 
semitism 

racial purity, 17-20; Cavafy bored 
by, 237. See also antisemitism 
Racine, Jean (1639-99), 33 » ^06; 
a typical reaction to, 100; 
Phidre, 90 

radio, see broadcasting 
Ranelagh Gardens, 155 
Rasumovsky quartets, see Beet- 
hoven 

rat: advantages of being a, 91 
“real”: a suspect word, 316 


400 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


reality: force the ultimate, but . . 
68-9 

reason: inferior to instinct, 35; the 
age of, 260; and the irrational, 
268. See also intellect 
reconstruction, post-war: tolerance 
as basis of, 43-6 
Red Cross: F. employed by, 233 
red flag: Edward Carpenter’s, 206 
Rede Lecture (Cambridge), 238- 
252 

Reds, see Communists 
regional feeling: in F. Reid, 264 
Reid, Forrest (1876-1947), 263-5, 
335 

relativity: and the novel, 269-70 
reliability: the need for, 66 
religion (s) : lends no support to 
antisemitism, 13; founding of, a 
creative activity, 67. See also 
Christianity; mystic, the 
religious broadcasting, 187 
religious doubts: of Edward Car- 
penter and others, 205 
Remarque, Erich Marie (1898- 

J970), 37 

Renaissance: passion for earthly 
immortality, 230. See also Italy; 
Rome 

Republic, the beloved, see love 
research: disinterested scientific, a 
creative activity, 67 
resentment: subject of entry in 
commonplace book, 184 
reverence: fatal to literature, 86 
Ricardo, David (1772-1823), 188 
rich, the: fatuous trustfulness of, 78 
Richardson, Dorothy (1873- 

1957). 269 

riches: deceitfulness of, 187. See 
also money 

Richmond, George (1809-96), 183 
Roberts, Field-Marshal Lord 
(1832-1914), 289-90 
Roehrich (or Roerick, the form 


used in the 1951 American 
edition), William (American 
actor) : dedication to, ii 
Rolland, Romain (1868-1944), 
226-9; Jean Christophe, 226-7, 
22S-g; Au-dessus de la MiUe^ 227, 
228 

Rome, Renaissance, 90 
Roses, Wars of the, 137, 148 
Rotherhithe: Prince Lee Boo and, 
305. 306, 311-12, 351 
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1712- 
1778), 260, 338 

Rubinstein, Ida (1885-1960), 231 
ruins : remembered because of 
experiments, 96 

ruling class, 290; and culture, 102 
Ruskin, John (1819-1900), 103; 
Giotto, 296; Praeterita, 296; The 
Stones of Venice, 79 
Russell, Bertrand (1872-1970), 
276 

Russia, Soviet: as represented by 
Soviet Pavilion at Paris Exhibi- 
tion, 5-6; and Dante, loi; 
power of theory in, 106-7; Gide 
and, 221, 224; American obses- 
sion over, 329-30 
Rutland, Charles Manners, 4th 
Duke of (1754-87), 168 

Saintsbury, George (1845-1933; 
author of a 3-volume History of 
Criticism), 104 
Salt Lake City, 328-9 
“sans everything” {As Ton Like 
It), lOI 

Santa Sophia, Istanbul, 99 
Sassoon, Siegfried (1886-1967), 
268; Memoirs of an Infantry 
Officer, 266 

Satan, 29. See also Mussolini 
satire: invoked, 28; not a straight 
trade, 147 

Saviour of the future, the, 71-2 


401 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Schiller, J. C. F. von (1759-1805) : 
Wilhelm Tell (III; 2) quoted, 
47-^ 

Schirach, Baldur von (1907- )• 
speech of 15 January 1938 
quoted, 35 

schools : elementai7, and Cam- 
bridge, 343, 346. See also 

preparatory schools 
Schumann, Robert ( 1 8 1 0-56) : 

Piano Quintet, 124 
science : is doing us in, 7 ; lends no 
support to antisemitism, 13; has 
unified the world, 33, 34; plays 
the subservient pimp, 65; con- 
trasted with literature, 84; im- 
placable offensive of, 89, 92; 
cleaning function of, 99; appli- 
cations of, 267; relentless lash 
of, 293 ; signs of progress of, 299 
scientific research and inventions, 
10, 67, 89 

scientists: unflattering references 
to, 58, 82, 86. See also biologists; 
naturalist 

Scotsman (unidentified), 70 
Scott, Charlotte (Sir Walter’s 
wife; 1770-1826), 175 
Scott, Captain Robert (1868- 
191a), 357 

Scott, Sir Walter (1771-1832); 
The Bride of Lammermoor, 
177 

Scovell, E. J. (1907- ): quoted, 
280 

sea, the; 260-2 

Second World War; premonitions 
of, 21-4, 25; view of, after one 
month, 28-30; compared with 
First World War, 31, 33, 35; 
necessity of continuing, 41; 
Milton and, 52; allusions to 
air-raids, 29, 72, 122, 238, 247, 
299, 301; to rationing, 246; to 
the blackout, 247 ; literary judge- 
ments not at b^t in, 238, 277 


Sedition Bill (1934), 47 
Self, the: Iqbal and, 282-3 
sensations; a bunch of, 357 
senses, the; Virginia Woolf and, 
246-7. See also body, the 
sensitiveness; admired by F., 67, 
70-1 ; indispensable to writers, 
266; American, 328 
servants: in Victorian age, 186-7, 
i95i 196; attitudes to, 293 
service that is perfect freedom, the 
(“quoted” as a “Christian 
epigram”; in point of fact, 
adapted from the Second Col- 
lect, Order for Morning 
Prayer), 9, 10 

Seurat, Georges (1859-91); La 
Grande Jatte^ 88 

S6vign6, Madame de (1626-96), 
266, 272, 292 ; subject of entry in 
commonplace book, 183 
Seward, Arma (poetess and friend 
of Johnson; 1747-1809), 17 
sex, see asceticism; Pam, Sex and 
Time; sexlessness 

scxlessness: a qualification for 
being a Great Man, 70 
Shad Thames (street), 312 
shadow of a shadow, poetry the, 81 
Shakers, 332-4 

Shakespeare, Joan, later Hart 
(1569-1646), 249 

Shakespeare, William ( 1 564- 
i6i6), 8a, 83, 137, 148, 27a; 
Germans and, 40-1 ; not con- 
scientious about his characters, 
1 5 1-2; Stratford Jubilee of 
J7^9> one of two people 

F. would name to speak for 
Europe at the Last Judgement, 
162; As Ton Like It quoted (“ sans 
everything”), loi; Hamlety 15 1, 
152; Henry V (film), 321 ; Jvlius 
Caesar, 79, 80, 150-3; 

Lear, 151, 153; Macbeth, 87-8, 
*5L *70, 174; quoted (“sound 


402 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


and fury’’), 105; Merchant of 
Venice quoted (“naughty 
world ”) , 29 ; Midsummer Night ’5 
Dream quoted (“ Following dark- 
ness”), 265; Othello, 1 51, 153, 
177; Richard II quoted (“death 
of kings”), 103; Richard III, 
170; Timon of Athens, 153 
Shakti Yogins, 26 
Shaw, George Bernard (1856- 
*950)- on Haydn, 109-10; 
possible allusion to Tou Never 
Can Tell (“you think...”), 
269; and T. E. Lawrence, 341 
Sheffield, 205 

Sheffield, John Holroyd, ist Earl 
of (1735-1821), 158, 160 
Shelburne, William Petty, 2nd 
Earl of (1737-1805), 168 
Shelley, Percy Bysshe ( 1 792- 
1822), 206; on imagination 

(Preface to The Cenci), 86; on 
poets {Defence of Poetry), gi 
Shostakovich, Dmitry (1906- ), 
106 

Shrapnel, Colonel Henry (inven- 
tor of the Shrapnel shell; 1761- 
1842), 199 

silliness: as a check to silliness, 14 
Simnel, Lambert {fl, 1487-1525), 
148-9 

simplicity: Tolstoy’s belief in, 201, 
204 

simplification : temptation of, 24 
sinner, the: comprehensible to the 
modern mind, 185 
“Sir Patrick Spens”, 77, 79, 81 
sister: disgrace of having a, 12 
Sistine Chapel, Rome, 90 
Skelton, John (“Poet Laureate ” — 
a title meaning much less than 
F. appears to suppose; c, 1460- 

>529), 133-49 

“Skitties” (Catherine Walters, a 
fashionable courtesan; 1839- 
1920), 288 


Slater, Montagu (1902- ), 177, 

179 

slavery, see Wilberforce 
“Slumber did my spirit seal. A” 
(Wordsworth), 79 
small: right and wrong ways of 
being made to feel, 2 1 2 
smartness, see fashion 
Smetana, BedHch (1824-84), 38 
Smith, Sydney (1771-1845), 46 
sneering: and planning, 55; guf- 
faws being organized into sneers, 
100; cannot belittle art, 219; at 
modern poetry, 281 
“So, we’ll go no more a roving” 
(Byron), 79 

social conscience: man’s dalliance 
with idea of, 9 

socialism : Edward Carpenter’s, 
206-7 ; Beatrice Webb’s, 208-9 
society: its duty to its members, 
94; including the artist, 94-8. 
See also community, the; State, 
the 

Solon (Athenian law-giver; r. 638- 
558 B.c.) : on happiness, 336 
Sophocles {c, 496-406 B.C.), 103, 
104; pessimism of, 69; Antigone, 
29, 90, 2 1 5 (is F.’s central faith) ; 
Oedipus, 258 

soul, the: in Nazi propaganda, 35, 
37; cannot be purged by 
charity, 187-8 

“sound and fury” {Macbeth), 105 
South Africa: F. in (1929), 324-6 
“Southey’s sister”, i.e, his future 
sister-in-law, Sara Fricker, 
whom Coleridge married, 77 
Soviet Union, see Russia 
speech: linked with love, peace, 
light, 30 

Spencer, Bernard (1909-63), quo- 
ted, 279 

“Spens, Sir Patrick”, 77, 79; 81 
spiders’ threads thrown back into 
the past, 183 


403 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Spiritual retreat, need for a, 25 
spontaneity : no place for, in 
modern war, 29; hated by 
Nazis, 34; possessed by working 
class, formerly by aristocracy, 

293 

sport: and nationalism, 60 
sportsman : albatross-shooter a, 
81 

Sprott, W. J. H. (Professor of, suc- 
cessively, Philosophy and Psy- 
chology at Nottingham; 1897- 
1971): dedication to, ii 
Stalin, Joseph (1879-1953), 59 
stamp-collecting, 297 
Stanley, Oliver (1896-1950): 

clich6-box of, 272 
Stanley of Alderley, Lady (1807- 

1895)1 300 

stars, relief afforded by: old style, 
89; new style, 262 
State, the: sacrifices to, 9; Nazi 
worship of, 34, 41 ; Milton and, 
51; versus the individual, 66. 
See also community, the; society 
Steegman, John (1899-1966): 

Cambridge, 343-7 

Stein, Gertrude (1874-1946), 269 
Stephen, Adrian (1883-1948) : The 
Dreadnought Hoax, 239 
Stephen, Sir Leslie (Virginia 
Woolf’s father; 1832-1904), 205, 
250 

Stevenage: a meteorite town, 57 
Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850- 

1894). 83 

stock exchange, the aesthetic, 105 
stone : is like grass, 247 
“stone-dead hath no fellow” (3rd 
Earl of Essex, recommending 
the execution of Strafford; as 
reported by Clarendon in his 
History of the Great Rebellion), 
329-30 

“Stop”: an example of pure 
information, 77-80 


Strachey, Lytton (1880-1932), 
266, 272, 274, 277; Queen 
Victoria, 273-6 

Strasbourg: Voltaire at, 337 
Stratford-on-Avon : Jubilee of 
1789, 154-8 

Stravinsky, Igor ( 1 882- 1971): a 
typical reaction to, 100 
street-watchings (systematic ob- 
servations of demonstrations, 
marches etc., aimed at provid- 
ing objective reports on the 
behaviour of police and demon- 
strators), 48 

strength: Antigone’s preferred to 
Carlylean heroes’, 215 
strong, the : stupidity of, 68 
Struther, Jan (1901-53): Mrs 
Miniver, 291-4 

study: only a serious form of gos- 
sip, 84 

style: order in which words are 
arranged, 80-1; Mrs Miniver 
and, 292 

subconscious, the : bucket let down 
into, 82-3, 1 1 1 ; and modern 
literature, 268-70. See also per- 
sonality 

Sun : attitude of descendants of, 1 9 
super-nationalism, see inter- 
nationalism 
Sweden, 353 

Sweerts, Michael (1624-64): A 
Family Group (now attributed to 
Michiel Nouts), 129 
Swift, Jonathan (1667-1745) : Gul- 
liver's Travels, 213, 313; in- 
fluenced F. negatively, 215 
Swinburne, Algernon Charles 
(1837-1909) : “Hertha” quoted 
(“beloved Republic”), ii, 67, 
68 

Swinnerton, Frank (1884- )> 276 
Sykes family, 17 

sympathy: no longer enough, 65 


404 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Tacitus (c. 56-120), 295 
Tagore, Rabindranath (1861- 
1941), 282, 283, 284, 321 
Tasso, Torquato (1544-95): Gem- 
salemme Liberata, 106 
taste, good: belief in, a charac- 
teristic of humanism, 220-1 ; 
Forrest Reid’s natural, 264. 
See also culture 

Tchaikovsky, Peter (1840-93): 
Second Piano Concerto, 115; 
Fourth Symphony, 124 
timoignage^ see Baudelaire 
Templewood,Lord, .wHoare, Sir S. 
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord (1809- 
1892) : and Palace of Art, 241 
Terry, Sir Richard (1865-1938), 
99-100 

Themistoclcs (Athenian leader 
during Persian wars; c. 528- 
462 B.C.), 237 

Thornton, Henry (F.’s great- 
grandfather ; 1 760- 1815; the 

election verse was recalled by 
his daughter Marianne in her 
“Recollections”, now, like his 
diary, in Cambridge University 
Library), 182, 185-9. 
Thornton, Marianne (F.’s great- 
aunt; 1797-1887), 187 
“Three Blind Mice”, 119-20 
Thucydides {c. 460-400 b.c.), 295 
Times^ The, 61, 91, 100, 225, 271, 
292; Atlas, 297 

tins: pros and cons of eating out 
of, 340 

Titian (r. 1488-1576): Entomb- 
ment, 127 

Todi, Jacopone da, Jacoponc 
tolerance: necessity of, 43-6; no 
longer enough, 65; Lamb’s and 
Stevenson’s, 83; cultural, 104; 
Voltaire’s belief in, 162; Samuel 
Butler’s belief in, 214; Rose 
Macaulay’s, 267 ; symbolized by 
London Library, 299 


Tolstoy, Leo (1828-1910): his 
belief in simplicity, 201, 204; 
compared with Proust, 2 16, 2 18, 
219; with Rolland, 226; S. R. 
Masood and, 286; The Cos- 
sacks, 201-2, 204; The Death of 
Ivan Ilyitch, 201, 202-3, 204; 
The Kreutzer Sonata, 123; The 
Three Hermits, 201, 203-4, 369; 
War and Peace, 152; one of F.’s 
three great books, 2 1 2 
Toma, Admiral, 70 
tongues : holding of, 28-30 
Tovey, Sir Donald (1875-1940), 
109, 124 

Toynbee, Arnold (1889- ): A 
Study of History, 43, 269 
Tradesmen’s Entrance: necessity 
of retaining a, 293 
tradition: the life of, 57; cultural, 
102 

tragedy: appropriate response to, 
21; the European, contrasting 
reactions to, 220-3 
trams: need for accurate informa- 
tion about, 77-8 
Treacle Tommy, 289 
trees: in America, 327, 328; at 
Abinger, 353, 355-6 
Trevelyan, R. C. (1872-1951): 
“Virginia Woolf” {Abinger Chro- 
nicle, April 1941), 240 
Trollope, Anthony (1815-82), 296 
trousers : fate of a pair of, 325-6 
truth: two kinds of, 81, 84; con- 
cern for, felt by Voltaire, 162, 
163; by Gide, 221, 225; by 
Virginia Woolf, 241, 248; by 
Lytton Strachey, 274 
twentieth century: its disillusion- 
ment, 10; its “challenge”, 54-8. 
See also modem mind, the : nine- 
teen-thirties; nineteen-twenties 
tyrants: becoming the norm^ 10; 
seldom listen to sages, 27. See 
also dictators 





ANNOTATED INDEX 


uncle, a huntin’ see Forster, W. 
unconscious, see subconscious 
unhappiness: in childhood, ^dan- 
gerous effects of, 163 
unimportant and unpractical 
people: relative far-sightedness 
of, 22 

United States, see America 
university education: disposes one 
to overwork “but”, 118; dis- 
trusted by Edward Carpenter, 
206; conception of, must include 
generosity, 347 

unpleasantness: the right to shirk, 
59 

unseen, the: Quakers’ sense of, 
Clapham Sect’s indifference to, 
188 

uselessness : of literature, in vary- 
ing degrees, 79-80; privileges 
of, 86 

U.S.S.R., see Russia 

Vahid, S. A. : translations of 
Iqbal, 282-4 

Valassopoulo, George: transla- 
tions of Cavafy, 233, 236 
Valkyries : symbols of courage and 
intelligence, 68 

van Gogh, Vincent (1853-90), 4-5 
(where the remarks allegedly 
written on “the white walls of 
his cell” evidently represent 
messages conveyed to F. by the 
paintings on the walls of his 
“half-dozen rooms” at the 
Exhibition — although “Sorrow 
is better than laughter'* is Eccle- 
siastes 7:3, and is quoted, 
accurately and in English, by 
van Gogh in a letter to his 
brother Theo written in the 
autumn of 1876), 6, 7, 36, 126 
variety: hated by Nazis, 34, 36; 
mistaken for weakness, 53; ad- 
mitted by democracy, 67; bores 


some people, 70; inescapable, 
73 

Vaughan Williams, Ralph (1872- 
1958), 144 

vegetation: worship of, foreseen, 

356 

Velasco, Isabel de, 128 
Velasquez (1599-1660), 103, 104; 
Las Meninas, 1 28 

Verdi, Giuseppe (1813-91) : Otelloy 
njy 367 

Victoria, Queen (i8i9*ri9oi), 
275-6 

Victorian age : summarized, 54-5 ; 
apparent permanence of, 196, 
248; satirized by Samuel Butler, 
212-14; solemnity of, 273. See 
also nineteenth century 
village life: in Dorset, 199; in 
Gloucestershire, 291 
violence, see force 
Virgil (70-19 B.C.), 1 14; and the 
holders of tongues, 29; Aeneid, 
33; quoted (6:462; “a land 
rugged and forlorn” in Page’s 
translation), 335 

“Visit to a Gnani, A” (section of 
Edward Carpenter’s From Adam's 
Peak to Elephanta), 207 
Voltaire (1694-1778), 260; and 
Frederick the Great, 162-5; one 
of two people F. would name to 
speak for Europe at the Last 
Judgement, 162-3; preferred to 
Macchiavelli, 215; and Ferney, 
335-6; allusion to “6crascz 
I’inf^me”, 337 ; sununanzed, 
337. See also Keate 

Wagner, Richard (1813-83), 21, 
22; Beachcomber on, no; his 
use of C sharp, 120; he never 
let the fancy roam (allusion to 
Keats, q.v,), 122-3; and Corio- 
lanus Overture, 124; Mbelung's 
Ring, 68; Tristan and Isolde, 367 


406 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


Walls Have Ears (wartime slogan), 
28 

Walpole, Horace (i7i7“97), 155 
Walpole, Hugh (1884-1941), 245 
war; inter-war literature and, 266; 

now a business, 268 
warmth of heart, 66; American 
example of, 329; in Moll 
Flanders, 351 

washing: not allowed to win too 
easily at Clouds Hill, 341 
Waterloo: a dismal arrival at, 319 
Watkins, Vernon (1906-67): quo- 
ted, 279-80 

Waugh, Evelyn (1903-66), 268 
weakness: not same as tolerance, 
46; or as variety, 53 
wealth, see money; riches 
Webb, Sidney (1858-1947) and 
Beatrice (1857-1943), 208-11 
Weber, Carl Maria von (1786- 
1S26) : Der FreischiitZi 178 
Wedgwood, family : unconven- 
tionality of, 195 

Wedgwood, Julia (^‘Snow**; 1833- 
1913), 195-6 

Wells, H. G. (1866-1946), 276, 
349; and Orwell, 60; and nature 
reserves, 356 

Wembley, British Empire Exhibi- 
tion at (1924): suety dreariness 
and puffed pretentiousness of 
(vividly conveyed in Abinger 
Harvest*, “Our Diversions”, 2 
and 3), 7 

“Whether on Ida’s shady brow” 
(Blake), 79 

whimsies, professional, 312 
Whitman, Walt (1819-92): on 
Beethoven (from Specimen Days), 
108; a grand old boy, 109; 
Edward Carpenter on, 206; 
empty noises in, 356 
Wilberforce, William (1759- 
1833) : his work needs doing all 
over again, 188 


Wilcox, Ella Wheeler (1855-1919; 
American versifier, author of 
Poems of Passion, Poems of Purpose 
and many other similarly en- 
titled volumes, not to mention 
Gems from Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 
The Ella Wheeler Wilcox Birthday 
Book, etc. — all dealing, accord- 
ing to her obituary in the 
Annual Register, “mostly with the 
everyday affairs of life in a 
cheerful and courageous spi- 
rit”), 80 

Wilson, Captain Henry, 305-14 
passim 

Wilson, Woodrow (1856-1924), 
230 

Winnington-Ingram, A. F. (1858- 
1946; Bishop of London, 1901- 

1939). 349 

wireless, see broadcasting 
wisdom: contrasted with know- 
ledge, 106; coupled with it, 247, 
248 

Wolf, Hugo (1860-1903), 240; 

“Ganymed”, 123 
Wolsey, Cardinal (1471-1530): 
John Skelton and, 134, 138, 
142-5, 147 

women; Cambridge and, 239, 
344-5. 346; in India, 317, 319 
women’s rights: “Snow” Wedg- 
wood and, 196; Edward Car- 
penter and, 206 ; Virginia Woolf, 
the male conspiracy and, 249- 
250; Christianity and, 332 
Woolf, Virginia (1882-1941), 266, 
269, 272, 371; her reading 
habits, 1 15; F.’s crowning tri- 
bute to a writer whose work 
he had admired from the outset 
(he reviewed five of her books 
and included an earlier essay 
on her in Abinger Harvest)',* zxidi 
who attached a unique im- 
portance to his judgements (one 



ANNOTATED INDEX 


entry in A Writer's Diary even 
suggesting that but for F.*s 
recognition of The Waves as “a 
classic” she might never have 
written The Tears or Between 
the Acts)i 238-52; her inspired 
breathlessness, beautiful dron- 
ing or gasping, 242 ; a poet who 
wants to write something as 
near to a novel as possible, 
246 ; her enlightened greediness, 
246. Quotations (other than 
those labelled in the text) : from 
Jacob's Rooniy 247 (“shining” 
should be “burning”, but this 
would blunt the force of F.*s 
next sentence), 345; from The 
Waves^ 248; from “On Being 
111’’, 251 

words : power of, 81; two func- 
tions of, 82, 85; the wine of life, 
298 

Wordsworth, William (1770- 
1850): allusion to sonnet on 
Milton, 52; “A slumber did my 
spirit seal”, 79, 80; compared 
with Crabbe, 169, 171; Auden 
on, 261 ; “Lucy Gray”, 264 

working class: F.’s friends in, 57, 
103, 291 ; “Snow” Wedgwood’s, 


196; Edward Carpenter’s, 206- 
207; Virginia Woolf’s detach- 
ment from, 250-1 

world, the: its inability to work 
out, 24 

world wars, see First World War; 
Second World War 

Wren, Sir Christopher (1632- 
1723), 345» 349 

Wright, Sir Charles Hagberg 
(1862-1941), 302 

writer, the: his need for freedom, 
32, 57; and industrialism, 267; 
and the people, 270. See also 
artist, the 

writing: Virginia Woolf’s method 
of, 239-40 

Wurlitzer organ, 100, loi 

yes-men: boosted as national as- 
sets, 197 

Yongc, Charlotte (novelist; 1823- 
1901), 296 

Yosemite valley, 327 

“you think you don’t but you do” 
(Bohun, more or less, in Shaw’s 
Ton Never Can Tell), 269 

Zion, Elders of, see Protocols 


408 



Addendum 


The couplet on page 345 is, it seems, a garbled version of 

Alas ! for the South, her books have grown fewer — 

She never was much given to literature. 

— as given in a volume entitled Purely Original Verse. Complete 
Works ^ and a Number of New Productions, by J. Gordon Coogler 
(1865-1901), published at Columbia, South Carolina, with two 
title-pages dated 1897 and 1901 respectively. Coogler’s Introduc- 
tion quotes freely from reviews of earlier volumes; one review 
refers to him as “the Sir Edward Arnold of Columbia” — 
meaning, probably, Sir Edwin Arnold (1832-1904, author of a 
portentous blank-verse poem The Light of Asia), though on the 
evidence of this couplet William McGonegall seems more approp- 
riate. I am grateful to Professor George W. Williams of Duke 
University for nailing, and his colleague Professor Carl Anderson 
for mailing, the source of this “quotation”. 


409